Swin Cash poses nude

ESPN The Mag Body Issue 2013: Swin Cash (1:31)

Behind the scenes of Swin Cash's ESPN The Magazine Body Issue photo shoot. (1:31)

Why did you decide to pose?
SC: My mom made a funny comment, she said, "Well, you better do it now before you get a bit older and have kids!" But I thought about it, and it's really one of those things where I feel comfortable enough to do this right now in my career. I'm excited because many people never would have thought I would do this. This is going to blow some people's minds out of the water. But I'm hoping when people see my picture, they don't just see nudity -- they see fearlessness.

What kind of athlete were you growing up?
SC: I was competitive from a young age just playing with my brothers and my cousins. I played pretty much every sport. I was really good at baseball. So I played baseball, some flag football. The worst was when I hit the age where I could no longer play football, so I was a cheerleader. I never understood why. Now I see young girls playing football, and that's really cool.

What do you like about your body?
SC: People always say I'm skinny, but I've always had strength. I think being strong but sleek and having a tall stature is sexy; it's feminine but also fierce. And I feel comfortable in my own skin. People say, "Your arms are cut," but I say my legs are my strongest part. Anyone who has ever watched me play knows I love to post up, and you need to have strength in your bottom half to do that.

If you could change something about your body, what would it be?
SC: I miss having an 8-pack. I wish I could go back to my early 20s and get those toned, defined abs. If I became a bodybuilder, maybe I could. But in general, I'm comfortable with my body. I've been blessed.

What is your favorite thing you do to train?
SC: Boxing. It helps me get out aggression, but it is so tiring. I have so much respect for people who box. My trainer holds pads, and I hit her with combinations. A session could be 30 minutes to an hour. I'll go three-minute rounds, take a 30-second rest, and so on. I'm pretty sure I want to try MMA; I'm just not as coordinated as I need to be. Maybe if I could get some pointers from Laila Ali, I would jump in the ring. Maybe that's my next career! Just joking, definitely not.

What's an exercise you can't live without?
SC: Classic wall sits. Oh my goodness! Wall sits help physically and also mentally, especially when you're competing with someone and your legs are shaking and you want to fall down. At UConn, we used to play "last woman standing." Our strength and conditioning coach pushed me to where I thought she kicked me over the edge. That's when I found the next level of training.

What's your must-have training food?
SC: Protein shakes. I have a fast metabolism, so it's easy for me to lose weight because of how hard I practice, how hard I go. I have to maintain weight by adding additional protein to my diet, especially in season. My teammates want to smack me every time they see me drinking a protein shake: "Oh, what a terrible problem to have."

What is your biggest challenge with your body?
SC: The biggest challenge any athlete faces with their body is 1. the mileage that we put on it, and 2. the older you get, the more in tune you have to be with your body. I've been in this league 12 years, and in no shape or form am I "old" -- I'm very "seasoned." At this age, I get more massages, I meet with a chiropractor, I have a routine. In my 20s, it was time to practice, throw on shoes, go out, start playing. Now I'm stretching and getting prepared. Your body is your temple, and I'm the CEO of me. My body has helped me to have a career to provide for myself and my family, and I take care of it as such.

Talk about your battle with cancer.
SC: Before the 2007 playoffs, my back was bothering me, and a doctor told me I had a herniated disk and wanted to give me an MRI. By the grace of God, they saw something on my kidney and realized it was a cancerous tumor. It was like a bomb dropped on me right before the playoffs. I tried to keep a smile on my face, but I was in a place of fear. I took a hit because people didn't know what was going on. My coach was questioning my toughness, but I felt it wasn't the time to speak about it because people would see it as an excuse for not playing my best. I tried not to think about it. I didn't want people feeling sorry for me, and I went through an avoidance period. It was like I was dreaming, like it wasn't really happening.

When did you decide to share your story?
SC: After kidney surgery, my whole life became about making the 2008 Olympic team. That's all I focused on; I didn't talk about anything else. I was stressing out and losing weight. I wasn't playing at the highest level. When I didn't make the team, I realized I had thought the Olympics meant everything, when in reality I needed to take care of my health and put myself first. I realized there were people who believed I had everything going for me, that my life was peaches and cream. And I thought, "You know what? I need to share this story." That all led to my book, which came out in March.

Have you ever struggled with body image?
SC: I scar easily, and the scars quickly turn to dark marks, and that bothered me. But my nana told me, "Every scar has a story." So I'd look at my body: "This is when I fell off my bike," "This is when the dog bit me," "This is when that girl wore acrylic nails during the game." It made me say, "This is who I am. God wanted me to be different." Now I'm proud of my scars. I have an incision from my back surgery, when I made the decision to put me first, and my kidney surgery. Both of those were statement times for me, so I'm proud of them.

What mental weakness do you fight against?
SC: My struggle for perfection. That can hinder me. Someone once said to me, "You have to learn how to miss before you can make it." That means letting shots go and focusing on the next one. That's where I've struggled: learning that perfection is something you're not going to get but should strive for.

What would you define as your edge, mentally?
SC: At a young age, I looked at my environment and knew that to get where I wanted, I had to be stronger than everyone else mentally. I grew up in public housing. I remember hearing gunshots. Our high-rise had a basketball court, and as long as the light was on -- raining or snowing -- I'd be out there. Sometimes I was the only person, just dribbling or shooting, because I wanted something different. I made the decision to hang with friends who were doing positive things and to work hard when everyone else went home. I always wanted something more.

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