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The Women's Sports Alliance


Temi Fagbenle – the Olympian, WNBA History-Maker And Iconic GB Basketball Leader

“Representation matters," Temi Fagbenle tells the WSA. "If somebody can see themselves in me and because of that, believe they can go on and do something special, then that’s amazing because it’s all about inspiring the next generation.”

Temi Fagbenle playing for London Lions Women's basketball team

Image from London Lions

Temi Fagbenle has become synonymous with British Basketball successes since the true extent of her potential was realised in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics.

Born in Baltimore, USA, she moved with her family to England’s capital at the age of two, before returning to America for high school and college at 15.

As dual-citizen she could have pursued an international career with Team USA, but after representing GB at U16 and U18 levels she was then fast-tracked from the U20’s into the Team GB Olympic line-up for their ‘home Games’.

She was 19 – and the youngest member of the squad – but already an outstanding talent.

Over the last decade Temi has played – and won honours – domestically across European and in 2017, while back in the USA, she made history by becoming the first British player to win a WNBA title.

She also took Great Britain to their first-ever major tournament semi-final – at the 2019 EuroBasket – and earlier this year accepted the “great honour” of becoming GB’s new captain.

Temi has now returned to live in the UK once more. This season, she’s playing in Eurocup and, for the first time, the WBBL, after signing with the London Lions.

She spoke exclusively to the WSA about her latest move, the key moments which have shaped her career and the lessons she has learned along the way.

"I still strive for greatness, but I've learned the importance of taking time to relax a little"

Temi Fagbenle playing for Team GB's Women's basketball team

Image from GB Basketball

Q – You are well-known as being someone who gives truly everything you have out on the court, but were you always this super-competitive, even as a child?

“Yeah I've always been quite a competitive person. I love the grind of preparing to be the best you can be and then putting it all out on the court or the field and just seeing what happens.

“If it's a win that's amazing; if you lose you’d hope to have given it your best, but that competitive spirit just drives me, as does support from my family.

"The fact that I get to make a good living out of what I do is also a great motivator, so I'm very blessed to be able to play basketball as a job.

"That's something I actually reminded my teammates about today, because we were tired after traveling and playing in Belgium. We didn’t feel like training and weren't giving as much energy as we should have been.

I just brought us in a huddle and said ‘Guys, we play basketball, this is our 'job', so many people would love to be in our positions. Let’s focus and do this thing right.'

“So that’s one of the challenges, to remember that each day we need to bring ourselves and try to be the best that we can be, however that may look.”

Q – We mentioned you are now the national team captain, but how do you find being a leader on and off the field and how has that changed during your career?

“I've always actually been quite a natural leader,” Temi tells the WSA.

"When I first started out I was not as vocal as I am now, but I would still lead by example, just by how hard I go, how competitive I am and the energy I bring to the court, so that rubs off on my teammates.

"I’m supportive to my teammates and want everyone to be on the same page fighting for a common goal, so now actually having the title of ‘captain’ is of course an honour, but it doesn’t change my approach as a leader too much.

"I’ve always been someone who naturally wants to help others and contribute in the best way I can towards a victory."

Q – You have played in some of the biggest leagues and also on the biggest stage, in terms of the Olympics, so how have you learned to handle the pressure to perform?

Temi Fagbenle playing for London Lions Women's basketball team

Image from London Lions

“You have to kind of know when to chill out.

"One of our goals coming into the season was to make it to Euroleague, but we didn't qualify, which really hit me hard, because I put a lot on my shoulders as a leader on this team, too.

“I just really wanted it so bad and even though it’s a team sport I put a lot on myself and I wasn't really enjoying basketball.

"I was stressing every day and wanted us collectively to be better as a team. I was trying to bring the best out of myself and my teammates, but nothing seemed to be working.

"It was taking a toll on me. I wasn't sleeping and when I did, I’d wake up hours before my alarm and couldn’t get back to sleep. This meant I wasn’t recovering well, so I’d show up to practice mentally and physically frazzled. I was creating an atmosphere of stress within myself.

"After a little breakdown, I had to take a step back and be like, ‘just relax,’ continue to give your 100% each day, but don't try and force something that is not currently there.

"I still strive for greatness, but I don't force anything and that has been quite helpful for me, in terms of relaxing more and enjoying every moment."

Q – British fans are certainly delighted to have you back in the UK after you signed for London Lions, but what motivated you to return now at this stage of you career?

“I haven't lived here in 15 years plus, so it's like I'm learning this city all over again, but I’m really enjoying it,” Temi says.

"It felt like a great opportunity, with the new 777 ownership, who are looking to really invest in British Basketball and put it on the map by helping with the growth. So I just loved the idea and wanted to be part of it.

"My former team-mate, Stella Kaltsidou, is my coach here and we won a championship together as teammates in Poland. I appreciated the way she approached and played the game, so I trusted her to put a great team together.

"We always said we’d like to work together again in this new capacity, so it’s great that things have fallen into place. My family also lives in London, so to have them in the northwest while I’m in the east means I’m closer to them than I’ve ever been since I left home at 15."

Q – How positive are you about the future of basketball in Great Britain?

Temi Fagbenle playing for Team GB Women's basketball team

Image from GB Basketball

“I'm quite hopeful because there’s such huge potential.

"We’re seeing investment not just in London, but even in Scotland, with the Caledonia Gladiators. This influx of investment has been really helpful for the growth of British basketball.

"Now more than ever, women athletes are being highlighted and celebrated for their accomplishments in the media. We’re hearing their voices, reading their stories, and when fashion and other marketable interests are included, it creates something that can actually be packaged well.

“So I'm excited to see how British Basketball takes off and how we can package it over here, but to be honest it's a product that speaks for itself, so it shouldn't be too hard!

"We need to create a better pathway for young athletes too, as America and some European countries have done. It would be great if people could stay in Great Britain to progress well and not feel like they have to go overseas to grow their career. That would be fantastic!”

Q – You’re rightly seen as a huge role model and inspiration to many not only in the UK, but around the world. How do you feel about those ‘titles’ and what mottos or motivational phrases do you live by which young people can perhaps also learn from?

Temi Fagbenle playing for Team GB Women's basketball team

Image from GB Basketball

"It’s a great honour to be someone's inspiration or role model and I just try to be the best 'me' I can be every day, however that looks like! If anyone, but especially young girls and boys, can derive inspiration from that, then it means everything.

“It terms of mottos, I have two. The first is ‘this, too, shall pass.’

“That goes for the hard times and the good times.

"So, whatever happens, it's just understanding that emotions are fleeting and everything is temporary. Know that this hard time will pass, so let it run its course, and this great time will pass, too, so really enjoy it. Always live in the present moment.

"Don’t crave or be averse to any emotions because they’re all fleeting. This idea is connected to a particular method of meditation, called Vipassana, which I learned during a 10-day silent course, and it has helped me.

"The second one is to ‘find the joy in each moment’, which came from a season when I was in Turkey and my teammates and I were having a really difficult time.

"We found gratitude and happiness in the little things, which helped us put life into perspective.

"Those are two mottos which have helped me through my career and life."

Temi Fagbenle playing for Team GB Women's basketball team

Image from GB Basketball


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