PAM AND PAULA McGEE : DOUBLE FIGURES : Basketball-Playing Twins Still Together; Not Such a Far Cry From Olympics
It was one of the magic moments of the 1984 Summer Olympics--one that transcended the gold-medal winning performance by the U.S. women’s basketball team.
It was Pam McGee, U.S. team forward, on the award platform in the Forum, gold medal around her neck, searching for her twin sister, Paula, in the crowd.
It was Pam and Paula minutes later, crying, embracing. And it was Pam putting her medal around Paula’s neck.
It was a spontaneous, loving gesture--a gesture that touched a nation.
Today, it is a gesture the twins simply laugh about.
“It was really special because Paula’s a big crybaby,” said Pam, touching off a battle of wit.
“You cried, too,” Paula said.
Pam: “I was only crying because you came down to the floor.”
Paula: “Well, the only reason I came down there was because I saw you crying.”
Pam: “I said, ‘I’m gonna have to give her my medal so she’ll stop crying.’ ”
Paula: “It was amazing. There were 60,000 cameras in my face. It was like, ‘God, I can’t even cry by myself.’ ”
Pam: “I have to tell you something I haven’t told you, Paula. That was an ugly picture of you in the paper.”
Paula: “That’s all right Pam. At least I made the paper.”
Finally, though, someone almost gets serious.
“It was just a touching, emotional moment in my life that I will always reflect on,” Paula said, just before breaking into another rousing laugh.
“It is funny now. All my life I’ve had this independent, tough-guy image, right? Well, crying on national TV just completely ruined my image.”
When Pam made the U.S. team and Paula was passed over, Pam called it one of the saddest days of her life. She even considered quitting the team.
Today, the bitterness is gone.
“We just laugh at it now because we feel we still came out as a class act,” Paula said. “We had won two national championships (at USC), we were both All-Americans and people called our front line (with Cheryl Miller) the best in the history of women’s basketball. We knew our talents, and we accepted it as life.”
The Olympics were one of the few moments that Pam and Paula McGee, 22, were actually separated.
The twins grew up playing basketball together in Flint, Mich. They came to USC, where they led the Trojans to national championships in 1983 and 1984.
They’re still a package.
After moving to Dallas last fall to play for the Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s American Basketball Assn., Pam and Paula decided to remain there and start their own company, McGee Twins Enterprises (MTE).
They began the business venture in February with the ultimate goal of running their own advertising agency, but they’ve had to settle for a more modest debut.
Some of their offerings include basketball clinics for girls and promotional speeches. In the works, though, is a 1986 promotional calender called “Tantalizing Texans,” which will feature black Texas bachelors posing in their various professional environs.
Business hasn’t taken off just yet, but life as entrepreneurs suits the twins just fine.
“I have an economics degree so I can always get a 9-to-5 job, but I don’t think Paula and I are 9-to-5 individuals,” Pam said.
Added Paula: “We decided we don’t do any work until after “All My Children.” Working 9 to 5 is too restrictive. We like to see productivity and results, but when you work 9 to 5, you really don’t see that.”
Running a company has its advantages. You work when you want and take time off when you want. Thus, the twins were able to get to Austin for a weekend in late March to watch the NCAA women’s Final Four, where they spent much of the time signing autographs--but not because they are famous professional basketball players. Hardly any woman star is famous as a professional player.
It’s doubtful that the women’s pro league will be back this fall. Three of the six teams that competed last year have folded.
Even so, there’s still a chance that the McGees will be pros, and they may even be famous pros.
The twins would put their business on hold for an opportunity to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, who are looking for a female player or players for next season. The McGees and Olympic team captain Lynette Woodard are the leading candidates.
“It would be an honor to be part of the Globetrotters,” Paula said. “It would be history in the making. With our personalities and the contact with the fans and the media, we’d love to do it.”
Pam and Paula met the players when the Globetrotters played Dallas in February, but there have been no negotiations yet.
Right now, the twins are mostly concerned with making it in the business world. If they can come close to generating the kind of success in business that they did in basketball, MTE should do well.
They led Flint Northern High School to two Michigan state championships, then turned USC into a contender by leading the Trojans to the Final Four in the Assn. Of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in 1981, their freshman year.
In their junior and senior seasons, with Miller complementing the two power forwards, USC won NCAA titles.
The Trojans had a 109-18 record during the McGee era, but the twins think they brought more than wins and championship banners to USC.
“We had a big impact in that people looked at women’s basketball players in a different light,” Paula said. “At USC, we represented a look of femininity as well as a look of great athletes.”
Pam: “People told us that we always looked like ladies, but when we got on the court, we got down to business.”
Paula: “And we appreciated that, because we’re trying to change the stereotypes of masculine women in sports. We think we can still be competitive but keep an air of femininity about us.”
On the court, the McGees were always a good draw. You don’t often find a pair of 6-foot 2-inch identical twins who can play basketball like the McGees.
They knew each other’s moves. They could sense when the other was going to pass or shoot. Now, they’re hoping to extend that chemistry into the business realm.
“It’s sort of advantageous for us to be a set,” Paula said. “We work well together, for one thing, and people take notice of us. Pam giving me the medal at the Olympics also helped, because it probably made a bigger impact than if I had played on the team and started in front of her.”
Which brings up a good point. Who is better, Pam or Paula McGee?
“They put her on the (Olympic) team, but as far as our games are concerned, they knew I was a better player,” Paula said facetiously.
“She’s just kidding, of course,” said Pam, who contemplated the issue and then added, “but seriously, she is a better player.”
Said Paula: “It took her 22 years to admit that.”
Pam: “We’ve only been playing for 16.”
There they go again.