Get to know “Saucy Syd,” the unsung hero behind the “Hamby Heave”
Sydney Colson is a star. While the game by game numbers might not have shown it, in 2019 she was a reserve guard who always had a principal role to play. Her energy, confidence, and awareness allowed her and her team to shine bright.
When I first approached Colson, it had been two days since she played a critical role in the most dramatic WNBA Playoff moment since “the shot” taken famously by New York Liberty legend Teresa Weatherspoon in 1999. Teammate and pal Dearica Hamby drilled the game-winning long ball coined the “Hamby Heave“, (which already has a T-Shirt to its name), to advance the Aces past the Chicago Sky to the WNBA semi-finals.
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There were 12.5 seconds left on the clock. The shot clock had been switched off. Colson stood a few feet behind Diamond DeShields eyeing Courtney Vandersloot as she dribbled past Kelsey Plum. Less than three seconds later, Colson sprints past DeShields and is in a full-blown foot race with the Vandersloot and the ball.
The pressure from the cunning Colson enforced an uncharacteristic turnover from Vandersloot. Hamby intercepted it, leaping in front of DeShields. The seeds were planted for the heave.
Colson remembered the moment perfectly. It could have happened 30 seconds before our conversation. She recounted to me how she saw the play step by step, millisecond by millisecond.
“So I can see from the backcourt obviously like that and the frontcourt is about to spin and avoid the foul so, I started rushing at her [Vandersloot] to try to foul her,” Colson said. “So initially I was going to foul her and I sort of saw her contort to… she was about to make a pass. So then I was like, let me try to get a hand on it. So I kind of put my hand out. I don’t think I touched it. But then Dearica was reading that, which she does really well and she’s good at anticipating that shooting gap. So she got that steal and the rest was ancient history.”
The Texas A&M alumna noted that it didn’t shock her that it was she and her longtime teammate, Hamby. The two friends were down in the trenches and were tasked with either playing defense or ending their season. Colson noted that both she and Hamby are “defensive and energy minded” and have an established “rhythm together.”
Energy is the name of the game for “Saucy Syd”
Colson is always on and that has a triple meaning. On the bench. On the court. On the internet. Her presence is known. Her energy is omnipresent. Out of context, her body language would be a bit bizarre, almost meme-like, but Colson doesn’t care. Her antics keep her team going.
She was asked in the locker room on June 2 what fans can expect from her team. “They can expect great energy,” Colson responded.
And “great energy” is almost an absolute for Colson.
When teammate Kelsey Plum fired the one-legged three-ball against the Sky that almost made James Harden drool, it was Colson who was the first to hustle over to Plum beyond the bench with a chest bump.
When Hamby landed the three-ball from the left side of the arc against the Mystics on a pass from Liz Cambage, it was who Colson got right up like she had somewhere to go and walked behind the official who stood two feet from the bench. She turned her back toward the basket where the three-ball had swooshed in, and pointed one arm toward Hamby, imitating a sprinkler move or maybe pantomiming a bow and arrow.
Two minutes later, in the same game against Washington, she’s is a literal human jack-in-a-box. After a Kayla McBride longball, Colson pops out of her seat and points her finger to the ceiling.
Assistant Coach Kelly Raimon noted that while Colson’s energy can be comical, she’s always talking on the bench and is incredibly vocal during timeouts, a skill she might have picked up as a former assistant coach for Rice University’s Women’s Basketball team.
In 2019, she played a hair over 11 minutes per game. So how would she impact the pace and nature of games for Vegas?
According to former head coach and now assistant Vickie Johnson, the key to Colson’s game on the court is her ability to breakdown defenses and create for her teammates. “She [would] see things happening,” Raimon said. “Her athleticism and her quickness are really hard to match.”
On June 22 against the Dallas Wings, Colson completed a play that the Las Vegas Twitter account crowned as “Saucy.” She hauled a behind the back dime to, (you guessed it) Hamby.
Outside of the Aces locker room, Colson looked like she came out of a time machine that took a pit stop in the 90s. With her teased hair and a black t-shirt emblazoned with a Wolf, which was half-tucked into cuffed light washed jeans, she exuded an energy that was confident and calm. Her black boots and long hoop earring gave her that extra sauce.
How did that sauce and ability to see into the future assist her in setting up the “Hamby Heave”? Colson prides herself on defense and always tries to create “the little plays.”
“I think I have a good feel for a lot of the players,” Colson said. “I lot of people in the league know that’s my MO. I’m going to apply pressure. That’s what I do. That’s what I was taught in college at A&M. Our style of play, and that I think has been a part of what has kept me in the league really just being like energy and defense.”
Colson is the comedian “for the league,” says Amanda Zahui B.
When I asked Johnson to describe Colson in three words, her answer was immediate. “Funny as hell.” Colson is a star, but not in the traditional sense in professional sports. She’s a reserve who specializes in defense. So how does she do it? How is she a star?
Her vivacity doesn’t have an off button. It’s turned up to 11 during pregame preparations in which Colson has made her team’s pump-up chant, “Lady Aces,” viral and one of the most beloved WNBA stories of 2019.
She believes the origin of the fight song traces all the way back to training camp in May when she’d scream “Laddddy Acccces” just to, in her own words: “be silly and get on somebody’s nerves.” Her team initially didn’t appreciate the pet name as it symbolized something a bit more elementary, as women’s teams still tend to attach the word “Lady” in front of their mascot.
“So I was doing it as a joke,” Colson said. “People were like ‘shut up’ and eventually they started… and that’s what I do, I just do stuff. I annoy you until you do. You like it and you start doing it or you start ignoring me.”
A pivotal moment in the “Lady Aces” story was when Colson invited Las Vegas superfan Gabe Cohen to lead the pregame chant against the Connecticut Sun at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The “Lady Aces” Chant has appeared in many variations. Colson usually holds the note “Acccccess” for 7 beats. It’s not a chant of songbird, but it doesn’t matter. The purpose it serves is to entertain, empower and pump-up the team and its fans. It doesn’t matter if it’s on pitch.
Colson has thanked security guards, sampled the Frosted Flakes theme song and faked a faint while dancing, laughing and clapping to the beat of “LAAAAADDYYY ACCCCCESS.” (Why isn’t there a Buzzfeed listicle with every Lady Aces Chant? Well, I’ve provided just four of many. )
The city of Las Vegas has honored Colson, the Aces and their iconic chant with the naming of the newest baby dolphin at the Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage Hotel and Casino. The female calf was named “Lady Ace,” and according to resort COO Nik Rytterstrom, the Las Vegas Aces are “a strong, determined group of women” and were the best possible source of inspiration for the name their new dolphin. Colson also posts parody videos of different songs and cultural moments on her Instagram.
In a discussion with New York Liberty center Amanda Zahui B., I wanted to know who was New York’s team comedian. I used Colson as a point of reference and before I could finish my question, Zahui B. responded with a laugh laced with adoration: “Oh she’s [the comedian] for the league, she’s not just for the Aces.”
Colson was “the glue” of the Las Vegas Aces organization and their fans
Before the 2019 season, Colson heavily considered switching gears to pursue acting. Initially, she didn’t make the roster. Would the Aces have been a different team? Vickie Johnson considered Colson “the glue” and more than an integral part of the Aces successes in 2019.
“I think overall she’s been a factor in our team chemistry,” Johnson said. “She does a great job of rallying the team and using that energy off the floor and before games and things like that as well.”
Colson has created bonds with her teammates on and off the court, even inspiring some. Rookie Jackie Young has taken away the most from the six-year veteran. According to Johnson, Young has learned from Colson, improving on her finishes and ability to get to the rim. Johnson also acknowledged how Vegas’ post players benefited from Colson’s leadership and quickness.
A’ja Wilson has found a fellow goof in Colson. In one of Liz Cambage’s Instagram stories, she was asked a question from a follower, about if she’d rather hang out with Wilson or Colson. “They are both too busy watching the office to want to hang lmao,” Cambage wrote.
In the semi-final series against the Washington Mystics, Cambage struggled in game one. Colson gave her the support that allowed the center to come back out with vengeance in the rest of the series. She went on to score 20 points in each remaining game of the series.
“[I was] Just trying to tell [Cambage] to keep hitting,” Colson said. “If the refs aren’t going to give you calls, just be strong, make your moves. If the double team comes, pass out of it and just stay calm…I know she’s a very intelligent and talented player.
“Just make the right moves and trust your will, but don’t go within yourself when things don’t go your way because we still need you.”
“The glue.” I told Colson about Johnson’s comment. She smiled a bit bashful, mumbled and then responded: “Oh, that’s nice of her.”
She added, “If people are down and I’m not playing in the game, I’m still going to be cheering for everybody. I genuinely want to see all of my teammates do well. So it’s easy to have that kind of energy for people when you like them and enjoy being around them. And they work hard and they respect you… they just make things really easy… I think that’s what [Johnson] means. No matter if I’m playing or not, I’m going to carry the energy and be who I am.”
Before going into her home locker room for the last time this season, Colson met another one of her fans, a little girl named Aubrey. Her parents instructed the toddler to say “Lady Aces” for Colson, who smiled, awed, and signed a t-shirt and red sneakers.
An hour later, in a Spiderman onesie, Aubrey wore her newly signed sneakers and sang “Lady Aces” for the camera. When asked by her mother who her favorite is, the answer was a no brainer. “Sydney,” she said.
Seeing Colson in a Wolf t-shirt made a lot of rational sense. Wolves are viewed as teachers, that can be symbols for loyalty and spirit. Is a Wolf an unlikely spirit animal for Colson? Maybe.
She’s saucy, she’s a star, but really, she’s just Sydney.
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