🏀 Shoot Your Shot
When a Missed Jumpshot Led to the Ultimate Score
This latest edition of our love letter is sure to get your heart racing... We’re excited to take you through a story that started on the basketball court and has transcended beyond the love of the game.
It all began at a recreational basketball gym in Richmond, Virginia. Ann Fatima, a former female collegiate basketball player, was playing in a competitive pickup game against 9 men. Wardell, her now husband, offered some unsolicited advice. The banter (and a little competition) ensued.
How did your love story start?
Ann Fatima: I was shooting and this tall man, like 6’8” or 6’9” came out of nowhere and told me I needed to put a little arc on my shot. I look at him and I say, “I'm good”, and I go walk off to play in a pickup game with all men. Guys who had played in college, abroad and even professionally - he had no idea I had game and had played college hoops. You could tell he was thinking “wow this girl can play.”
Wardell had first noticed Ann Fatima two weeks earlier…
Wardell: I’d seen this beautiful woman on the treadmill at the gym. She was running nonstop, like really, really fast. And not even sweating. I asked myself, “who is this woman?” I didn’t approach her at the time because it didn't feel like it was the right time and place.
Wardell and Ann Fatima got placed on opposing teams not long after their first exchange.
Ann Fatima: I’m bringing the ball up the court, and Wardell is guarding me and I’m guarding him. Suddenly this big guy attempts a 3 point shot. I immediately yell “SHORT” meaning that I could tell the ball wasn’t even going to reach the rim, and I was right. The ball landed flat. I then bring the ball the other way and score on him.
Wardell remembers this turn of events a bit differently…
Wardell: I shoot this 3-point shot and there’s the prettiest girl I’d seen, imagine, the prettiest girl in the world. I didn't even know she was noticing me, and I of course didn't think she was gonna comment on my jump shot… Oh my gosh, just imagine that moment as a man. She said my shot was short and she was right. What am I gonna do next? So I got the rebound. Come down. Boom, boom, boom pull up for another 3-point shot and I knew right off my finger tips it was going in. I'm a lefty. I look to my right, noticed her, blew her a BIG old kiss and then looked back, as the ball fell into the hoop. The whole crowd erupted.
Ann Fatima went on to beat Wardell’s team, leaving Wardell a bit hurt on the sidelines but still ready to take his shot with her…
Ann Fatima: I said to Wardell, “are you done?” And instead of responding with a hurt attitude he said “252” and I asked him “what is 252?” He proceeded to give me his phone number…
Wardell and Ann Fatima have been married for 9 years with 3 beautiful girls all under the age of 8. All three girls play basketball, and their youngest (2 years old) can already dribble with both hands.
How do you handle responsibilities and decision-making in your relationship?
Ann Fatima: That's definitely teamwork. My husband carry’s a lot of the pickups for the girls, he gets them ready in the morning, and then in the afternoon I take over with coaching and become a mom making dinner. I was pregnant when I was coaching, and I pretty much gave birth with a baby in a stroller on a basketball court with whistle in hand, yelling losing my voice. When I was young I wanted somebody like me to be on my team and now my girls have me 100% of the time.
What do you love and respect about each other?
Wardell: I love how unique she is. And by that I mean she's super creative. She’s focused, driven, and understanding. She believes in herself and I want that type of energy around my life, my marriage and my kids. I am truly blessed to have met her and to know that she's the mother of my children.
Ann Fatima: He is the person that I needed most in all times to protect me. He personifies a protector. He’s my body guard, my knight, my secret service. For me to know that somebody deeply cares for me and is always by my side is an incredible feeling.
What advice would you give a couple just starting out?
Ann Fatima: Be vulnerable, don’t be uptight. I like to laugh. I like to make people laugh, and it's vice versa. There is no one else I’d rather just smile with and tell jokes to. Be super friends.
Wardell: Build trust. You want to be able to be yourself. You want to be able to be vulnerable. For me it was it was really simple. When I met my wife I knew she was the one because I didn't have to try. I could be myself. Oh and listen, especially for men, listen, because a lot of times we tend to be pre-wired a certain way that we forget to listen more and talk less.
What does the future look like for you and your family?
Ann Fatima: Our ultimate goal is to build a legacy and our own youth sports facility. A safe place where kids can be themselves and grow as athletes and as individuals. So hoping to own and facilitate that type of venue. It just kind of comes back to how we met and tying it back to that love of basketball. We’d also love our girls to make their way into D1 college programs, and if not, find a place that can foster and help them grow, reaching their highest potential and building on a legacy of love and basketball.
Wardell: She said it perfectly.
P.S. When Ann Fatima and Wardell both played college hoops, their nicknames were “Fat” and “Butta”. When mentioning this, Ann Fatima said, “We are a heart attack made in heaven.”
Meet Cutes NYC: Wardell and Ann Fatima's story reminds us that love and deep mutual connection can arise any time and anywhere — even between opponents on a basketball court. Their shared passion for basketball becomes a metaphor for finding common ground and celebrating each other's strengths within a relationship. Ultimately, their story teaches us the value of embracing individuality, supporting each other's dreams, and nurturing a love that evolves alongside shared interests, aspirations and good humor.
In basketball terms, how would describe your risk-taking in love?
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