Born: July 28, 1986
Essence Carson was born July 28, 1986 in Paterson. She was one of three tall, athletic siblings who gravitated to basketball. Her father is the brother of Tim Thomas and her younger brother, Shaquille Thomas was a standout for the University of Cincinnati.
Essence was an excellent sprinter and volleyball player. She was a great talent in music, too, studying classical piano, saxophone, bass guitar and drums. She attended the Rosa Parks School Fine and Performing Arts in Paterson, while also competing for Eastside High, the school made famous in the film Lean On Me.
Essence was named All-State in basketball and volleyball, and also won the state title in the 400 meters. She also helped USA Basketball’s U-18 team win a gold medal at the 2004 FIBA Americas Championships in Puerto Rico and was named New Jersey’s Player of the Year by Parade Magazine. She accepted a basketball scholarship from Rutgers that same year.
Essence played guard and forward for coach Vivian Stringer as the Scarlet Knights went to the NCAA Tournament in each of her first three seasons. Led by Essence, Kia Vaughn and Matee Ajavon, the team captured the Big East title in Essence’s freshman and sophomore seasons, but it was in her junior year (when the team finished second) that Rutgers went all the way to the NCAA Championship Game. A 54-–53 win over top seed Duke highlighted their great run. However, they could not upend Tennessee in the final.
Essence averaged 10.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game at Rutgers. After her senior year, Essence entered the 2088 NBA Draft. She was selected with the seventh pick by the New York Liberty. Ajavon went two picks earlier, to the Houston Comets. Essence was a starter for the Liberty in 2008 and 2009, and then a sub for two seasons. In 2011, she averaged 11.3 points per game and was so effective in her reserve role that she was chosen to play in the All-Star Game. She scored 13 points for the East.
Early in the 2013 season, Essence tore her left ACL and had to sit out the rest of the schedule. She was having her best season as a pro, averaging over 14 points a game at the time. While she rehabbed, she recorded a rap album (as Pr3pe) entitled Broken Diary. She returned to the court the following summer and filled a super-sub role on the front line for the Liberty in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Essence signed a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Sparks and took over the starting two-guard spot. She meshed perfectly with Candace Parker and the other Sparks stars to finish the year with a 26–8 record and a bye to the semifinals.
In the playoffs, the Sparks took the first two games of their best-of-five meeting with the Chicago Sky. Essence scored 11 points in Game 2. After Chicago took Game 3 at home, the Sparks won Game 4 95–75 to advance to the WNBA Finals. The finals went the distance, with the Sparks defeating the Minnesota Lynx 77–76 in a thrilling Game 5.
Essence re-signed with Los Angeles and helped the club get off to another strong start.