In a seemingly unplanned moment, four-time WNBA All-Star and longtime defensive stalwart Alana Beard announced Wednesday that her playing days are effectively over.
When asked on "The Tim Fletcher Show" if she planned to return for another season, the 37-year-old conceded "probably not."
"That's crazy," Beard laughed, "because you have me on air and you just made me announce my retirement."
After she starred at Duke, the Washington Mystics selected Beard second overall in 2004. She earned four All-Star selections in her first six seasons, developing into one of the league's top two-way wings.
However, major injuries wiped out her 2010 and 2011 WNBA seasons. The prolonged absence proved to be more of a speed bump than a roadblock: After signing with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2012 at age 30, Beard continued to play some of the best basketball of her career, developing into the league's preeminent defensive stopper.
Beard was named to the All-Defensive first team five times (2007, 2012, 2016-18) and the second team four times (2005-06, 2009, 2014). In 2017 and 2018 - at 35 and 36 years old - she captured back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors.
She won her lone WNBA title in 2016, helping the Sparks tame the dynastic Minnesota Lynx.
In 420 career regular-season games, Beard averaged 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 25 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Her 709 total steals rank third in league history behind Tamika Catchings (1,074) and Ticha Penicheiro (764).
"I'm craving the transition," said Beard. "I'm ready. I'm prepared. Yeah, I'm ready to rock."
Beard has also worked in broadcasting and owns a restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia. She said she intends to pursue opportunities in entrepreneurship.
"I'm in the works with Silicon Valley Bank to come on as a member of their venture capital team," Beard said. "My goal is to just implement myself into that ecosystem and learn as much as possible. But eventually, I would like to build out my own fund ... geared toward women and people of color."