Latina players on the Illinois Heart, a semi-pro basketball team in the newly formed Bikini Basketball Association, want fans to know the inaugural season, which begins June 22, might feature sexy athletes wearing less clothing than players on your average basketball organization. Lacking a standard uniform, however, doesn’t mean there is a lack in basketball skill. These ladies are ready to hit the court hard.
There are four Latinas on the Illinois Heart roster: Joanna Ortiz, Jenny Rivas, Florencia Segovia and Ana Sierra. Despite what some people might think the league is all about, the women say competition is still the most important element of the BBA.
“Basketball is the key thing we’re here for,” said 5’3” Dominican guard Sierra, who is originally from New York but now lives in Chicago. “We have the same passion and love for the game as the WNBA. We just don’t wear the same kind of uniforms.”
While the word “bikini” is in the league’s name, Ortiz, a 5’3” guard and Chicago native, said the team’s uniforms are better described as a spandex shorts/sports bra combination. Still, she anticipates some people are going to initially come just for the view.
“I was iffy at first about joining because of the uniforms, but it’s really not about that,” said Ortiz, who graduated from Marshall High School and is of Puerto Rican descent. You’re always going to have those people who are only interested in seeing half-naked women running around.”
For others like Rivas, also a 5’3” guard and native Chicagoan, the revealing uniform didn’t faze her one bit.
“I’ll play in anything just as long as I get to play basketball,” said Rivas, a graduate of Schurz High School. “When we start playing, we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
Segovia, a 5’3” guard who went to the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, revels in the fact that BBA fans will be able to see both her beauty and her skills as a player.
“I feel some women think they need to look more masculine to get respect as a basketball player,” said Segovia, who was born in Argentina. “I think the BBA will inspire girls and let them know that it’s OK to play ball and still look girly at the same time.”
The Illinois Heart’s season starts at home when they play the Miami Spice June 22 at 7 p.m. Home games are played at Proviso West High School (4701 Harrison St. in Hillside). Tickets can be purchased for $10-15 at eventbrite.com.
This post is also available in: Spanish