Jim Souhan
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Baron Davis thought about it. LeBron James talked about it. A few baseball players ran it up the flagpole, threw it against the wall, contemplated pushing the envelope and even considered taking it to the next level and other business clichés.

In the end it wasn't a superstar who helped purchase the Atlanta Dream from Kelly Loeffler. it was an athlete whose career earnings amount to what James makes in a week or two.

Renee Montgomery, the former Lynx guard, is part of the three-person team that bought the Dream, making her the first WNBA player to move into ownership.

Montgomery played for the Lynx from 2015-2017, helping win two league titles, before signing with Atlanta. She might have been the first player to jump onstage with Prince at the party he threw for the Lynx following their 2015 championship.

In Minnesota, she was known for her ability to beat shot-clock and end-of-quarter buzzers with creative shots, and the way her buoyant personality lifted her teammates.

Montgomery is just the latest Lynx player to make history.

The Lynx won four titles in seven years, from 2011 through 2017.

Rebekkah Brunson has won more titles than any player in WNBA history, and held the league rebounding record before current Lynx center Sylvia Fowles broke it.

Maya Moore sacrificed a Hall of Fame career to work in social justice and helped a wrongly accused man get released from jail.

Now Montgomery has made her own kind of history. She sat out the 2020 season to work on social justice initiatives, then announced her retirement as a player before joining the Dream.

This is why, to repeat a phrase growing in popularity, the WNBA is so important.

The league isn't just increasing in popularity, gaining in television ratings even as other sports are struggling during the pandemic.

This league altered America's political landscape.

Loeffler became a Republican senator from Georgia by appointment when her predecessor resigned for health reasons. Last summer, Loeffler wrote a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert complaining about the league's support for racial justice initiatives and the Black Lives Matter movement.

That prompted Dream players to take an interest in the candidacy of fringe Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock. After meeting with him, they began wearing "Vote Warnock" T-shirts.

Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff surged to victories in Georgia Senate runoffs, getting Democrats to 50 Senate seats. It is not an overstatement to say that the WNBA became a political force in 2020.

Now Montgomery is bringing the perspective of a Black woman athlete to WNBA ownership, in a city where activism works, and where the fight against suppression of minority voters continues.

"Breaking barriers for minorities and women by being the first former WNBA player to have both a stake in ownership and a leadership role with the team is an opportunity that I take very seriously," Montgomery said in a news conference last week.

She's also working in her first season as a studio analyst on Atlanta Hawks broadcasts for Fox Sports Southeast. Brunson does similar work for Fox Sports North on Timberwolves broadcasts.

Montgomery is proving that sport can be a ladder.

Perhaps she would have wound up as a WNBA owner had she spent her life in the business world. What we know for certain is that she used her platform and connections as a WNBA player to effect change and amplify her voice while becoming a trendsetter among athletes.

"The last year, the players of the Dream refused to just shut up and dribble," said Larry Gottesdiener, the new majority owner of the Dream. "They found their collective voice and the world listened. We were inspired by these brave women who advocated sports and activism in the midst of the pandemic and we want to celebrate and honor them.''

Gottesdiener is a real-estate developer. He isn't buying the Dream as an act of charity. He described the WNBA as a growth stock.

That's in part because of people like Montgomery.