WNBA center Kayla Alexander writes, illustrates children’s book: ‘The Magic of Basketball’

Alexander’s goal with her first children’s book was to share valuable lessons of hard work and perseverance while also creating a character she searched for as a young girl.

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Gary Dineen/NBAE

Growing up, Sky center Kayla Alexander searched the pages of her favorite children’s books for faces with skin the same color as hers, natural hair that matched her texture and curls and strong female athletes she recognized.

She didn’t see anyone like her in the books or in the authors creating them.

“It’s really sad, but I don’t remember reading children’s books that were written by authors who looked like me,” Alexander said. “Or seeing characters who looked like me growing up.”

Alexander grew up in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. She remembers the diverse community within her neighborhood and how it felt reflective of the world around her.

When her family moved about 65 miles north to Barrie, Ontario, that changed drastically.

“Everybody was white,” Alexander said. “That was the first time I was culture-shocked. I was like, ‘Wait a second. I thought the world looked like a mixture of different people.’ ”

She began drawing as an outlet. Her parents recall that everywhere she went she had a pencil and a pad of paper.

Some of the self-taught illustrator’s first works were of different outfits and designs for herself. Her tall, lanky frame left few options for her to choose from at the store, and this was her way of expressing her true style.

At school, she filled every elective with art classes, and her passion for illustrating grew until she found basketball. In seventh grade, Alexander’s focus shifted from art to athletics when she began playing basketball for the local rec league.

It was clear she was gifted athletically, and those gifts would lead her to Syracuse, where she graduated with a degree in education, and eventually to the WNBA. Alexander was selected eighth overall by the San Antonio Stars in 2013. In August, she was picked up by the Sky after Jantel Lavender’s season-ending foot injury.

It wouldn’t be until her professional basketball career began that Alexander would once again bring her artistic abilities to the forefront of her life.

“It all started because I realized I love the game of basketball, I love kids, which is why I went to school for education, and I love art,” Alexander said. “I had all these different passions, but I didn’t know how to combine them.”

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Kayla (left) and her sister Kesia (right) who co-authored the book The Magic of Basketball.

Provided Photo

That’s when the idea for “The Magic of Basketball” came to her. The story follows a young athlete named Kayla through her journey with basketball, which teaches her “magical” lessons along the way. The book is loosely based on Kayla’s own experience as an athlete.

Kayla’s goal with her first children’s book was to share valuable lessons of hard work and perseverance while also creating the character she searched for as a young girl.

The illustrations took Kayla three months, but the writing process was more challenging. She enlisted the help of her younger sister, Kesia, whom Kayla described as one of the most eloquent people she knows. After getting a copy together, Kesia helped her edit it, and in August, the book was published.

“If it’s for someone who is on the path to becoming a professional athlete or just a regular person who enjoys sports, the message is for everyone,” Kesia said.

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Gabby Williams niece reading The Magic of Basketball.

Provided photo

Today, Alexander’s road trips and downtime — both in the WNBA and during her career overseas — are spent creating.

She has multiple ideas for new books in the works. Some of them are sports-related, others focus on building confidence, but diversity and inclusion remain at the center of every story she dreams of creating.

“Even though I’m playing ball right now,” Alexander said, “through children’s books, I can still teach and share important lessons and messages with kids. It’s a way for me to continue my art and teach and share the love of basketball that I have.”

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