But as the private meeting went on, she sensed an unspoken question hovering over the proceedings. Keeping with her style, she confronted it head-on.

“I bet you can tell I’m a woman,” she said, “and I suspect the rest of the world can, too.”

She said she was all too aware that if she was selected, she would represent several hundred male athletes in the N.B.A.; she would deal with league officials and agents who were nearly all men; she would negotiate with team owners who were almost all men; and she would stand before reporters who were predominantly men.

She did not flinch. “My past,” she told the room, “is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”

“I don’t live my life saying, ‘What ceiling am I going to crack tomorrow?’ ” she said. “What I have done, and what I tell my nieces to do, is not to worry about whether you’re the only one, but worry about whether you’re the best one.”

“Smashing Ceilings and a Lot of Egos: Michele Roberts, NBA Union’s New Leader, Confronts Gender Barriers”, New York Times

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