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Ex-Terps star Crystal Langhorne retires from WNBA, joins Seattle Storm front office to direct social justice platform

Seattle Storm forward Crystal Langhorne must have used the phrase “it’s time” about a half-dozen times when explaining why she’s putting an end to a 13-year WNBA career.

“I feel like it’s time,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been able to accomplish so much throughout my career. It’s just me being able to come to a close in this chapter of my life. I’m happy with it. I’m at peace with it. A lot of people have been asking, ‘Are you at peace with it?’ Yeah, I am.”

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On Monday, the Storm made it official and announced the former Maryland star, who spent the past seven seasons in Seattle, is retiring and moving into a newly created front office position that focuses on community engagement.

“I made this decision a few days ago,” Langhorne said. “It was the past two days. I really was like, ‘You know what Crystal, it’s time. Don’t hold on to something for so long.’

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“It’s funny because I’m still training, but I was doing a lot of non-impact [work]. I did Peloton and stuff like that and I was thinking in the next few weeks I’m going to get back on the court and start revving it up. But I’m like, you know what, I’m good. ... My body is OK where it’s at.”

After a little bit of badgering, Langhorne allowed herself some wiggle in the future to change her mind and said, “I don’t want to say never, but I’m pretty sure that I’m done.”

Fow now, the 34-year-old New York native is looking forward to the next chapter in her life.

Langhorne, who has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Maryland, recently completed an internship with a Washington, D.C., architectural firm and hopes to pursue a career in interior design at some point.

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Next season, she’s returning to the Storm after accepting a job as the director of community engagement for Force4Change, the team’s social justice platform that focuses on voter registration, the amplification of Black women, BIPOC LGBTQ+ leaders and organizations serving Black communities.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” Langhorne said. “We created Force4Change last summer to really make an impact in the community. The team decided they wanted me to have a larger voice this year. I’ve been extremely passionate about social justice work.

“I didn’t realize how strongly I felt about it until last year when we were talking as an organization and a group. The organization decided to bring me back and help them with their anti-racist efforts. To be a person who helps them combat racism and speaks out on a lot of things and help them make decisions when it comes to social justice platform.”

Langhorne began her WNBA career as the No. 6 overall pick in 2008 draft and spent her first six years with the Washington Mystics where she became a two-time WNBA All-Star in 2011 and 2013.

In 2014, the Storm acquired Langhorne via trade in what she said was a difficult transition due in part to fans’ expectations that she would replace Seattle legend Lauren Jackson.

Still, Langhorne started the next four seasons during a stretch in which the Storm failed to make the postseason in 2014 and 2015 and lost first-round playoff games in 2016 and 2017.

Langhorne’s move to the bench in 2018 coincided with the emergence of young Storm stars Breanna Stewart and Natasha Howard, who led Seattle to two WNBA titles in the past three seasons.

“My trade to Seattle, that year was hard for me,” Langhorne said. “I wasn’t myself that year. Even adjusting to new roles in Seattle. Adjusting to coming off the bench and adjusting to this past year and not playing. Those were hard things to do.”

Langhorne’s future with the Storm was in doubt considering she averaged 1.4 points and 2.2 rebounds as a reserve in just 13 games last season.

Langhorne was due to make $105,000 next season and her retirement creates salary cap flexibility for the Storm to re-sign Sue Bird and potentially bring back restricted free agent Sami Whitcomb.

“After the 2020 season, I wasn’t sure where things were going to go,” Langhorne said. “I was just not sure. I spoke to management and we talked about a few things. I realized it was my time to be done. I love the game, but it’s just time. It’s time for me to do something different.”

Langhorne, who began playing basketball when she was 13 while growing up in New York and New Jersey, is still coming to grips with her decision to quit the sport that she loves.

“These past few days it’s all I can think about,” Langhorne said. “It’s weird to say I’m retired. I know I’ve been thinking it, but to now say it. And just to think of all the places I’ve been and all the people that are in my life because of basketball. The freedom that basketball has given me.

“It’s really overwhelming. I’m not very emotional, but the past few days have been. I’ve cried, but they were happy tears. It’s just been, yeah, I’ve been thinking about it all the time.”

Langhorne became a star at Maryland where she’s the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder and helped the Terps to the 2006 NCAA national championship as a sophomore.

In 2008, Maryland retired her No. 1 jersey, which hangs in the rafters at Xfinity Center in College Park.

In the WNBA, Langhorne amassed 4,433 points and 2,454 rebounds in 406 games while distinguishing herself as one of the most accurate shooters in league history.

During her career, Langhorne averaged 10.9 points, 6.0 rebounds while shooting 56.0% on field goals. (She shot 62.8% during a four-year collegiate career and is the only player in NCAA history to lead the nation in field-goal percentage three times.)

“Growing up, I was never taught how to shoot,” Langhorne said in 2017 when she shot a career-high 64.7% from the field and set the Storm single-season record.

Langhorne lists her championships with the Storm, Maryland as well as the 2013 EuroCup title she won with Dynamo Moscow of the Russian Premier League as highlights of her basketball career.. She also recounts the relationships made and treks to Hungary, China, Slovakia Turkey, Russia, Spain and Lithuania.

“Basketball has given me so much,” Langhorne said. “That’s why I haven’t even slept this weekend. I can’t help think about everything the game has given me. It doesn’t seem in a way.”

The past few days have also given her time to reflect on the downsides of her professional career in which she averaged just 4.8 points, 4.0 rebounds while starting six games as a rookie.

“After we won at Maryland and not getting back to a Final Four was difficult,” said Langhorne, who had had nine different coaches in the WNBA. “My first year in the WNBA was difficult. I struggled tremendously.”

Langhorne joked: “I struggled so bad my first year I thought that was going to be my last year.”

She added: “Who knew where the journey would take me? My last few years, they were hard, but it was great that we were able to win two championships. I always tell people, too, everyone can’t be Diana Taurasi. People’s careers, they take different paths. I’ve just been so fortunate to have the career that I’ve had.”

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