A Mother’s Day salute to the famous moms of professional athletes


Kevin Durant embraces his mother, Wanda Pratt, after he was named NBA MVP. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Moms of athletes are a unique breed. It takes a special kind of woman to allow her son, for example, to ram into a group of huge dudes at a high speed for the sake of the team. Not to mention it takes supreme dedication to wake up each day and shuttle your kid to and from multiple practices, whether it’s basketball, swimming or some other sport, for years on end. Yes, if there’s a category of moms that deserves to score endorsement deals or inspire movies, it’s moms of elite athletes. Here are a few of the most famous ones.

1) Wanda Pratt. Probably the most well-known woman on this list at the moment is NBA MVP Kevin Durant’s mom. Last week, she listened to her son give a memorable and emotional MVP acceptance speech, in which he named her “the real MVP.” Who else teared up? And the timing wasn’t bad, either. That speech and Durant’s mom now star in an NBA Mother’s Day commercial that was released Friday.

2) Deborah Phelps. Not every mom has the goods to be an “official ambassador” for a major clothing brand, but Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps’s mom does. Her chic-mom swag, which she displays while cheering on her talented son, earned her a deal with Chico’s in 2008 and six-figure payday, New York magazine reports. In 2012, mama Phelps also nabbed a part in one of her son’s Subway commercials.

3) Wilma McNabb. The mom of ex-NFL quarterback Donavan McNabb didn’t start the Campbell’s Soup “Mama’s Boy” ad campaign, but she changed it. She demanded a part and she got it. “I said: ‘I can do that. I can do what she’s doing,’ ” she told the New York Times in 2005. “I knew all the lines. I’d seen the script.” The partnership worked out well, and Ms. McNabb set a new precedent.

4) Brenda Ann Ware, Loreane Chappelle, Nelly Banatte, Juanita Brown, Christine Johnson, Deena Elizabeth, Andrea Jones-Drew and Betsy Hasselbeck. The mothers of football stars DeMarcus Ware, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jonathan Vilma, Devin Hester, Larry Johnson, Todd Heap, Maurice Jones-Drew and Matt Hasselbeck respectively, followed the lead of the McNabbs and scored a deal with Campbell’s Soup in 2009.

 5) Mary Thomas. NBA legend Isiah Thomas’s mom skipped endorsement deals and went straight to the movies, instead. While mama Thomas, who died in 2010, didn’t star in the 1989 film “The Mother’s Courage,” it was her life that it chronicled. A New York Times movie reviewer writes, “This TV movie builds to an inspiring conclusion as Mary fights city hall to keep her family from being forcibly moved to a violence-ridden housing project.”

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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Des Bieler · May 9

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