The debate on who is the greatest to ever do it in the WNBA is much more complicated than compared to the NBA. There are many names you can throw out there is really only one name that stands out to me the most in the league’s 25 year history.
The WNBA was founded in 1996 and began play in 1997 and there haven’t been much better than Diana Taurasi. The Mercury star has built quite the career in Phoenix that puts her above the rest.
One aspect that sets her apart from the rest starts where many great women’s basketball players bloom, the University of Connecticut. Taurasi came in as a highly touted recruit out of highschool and had a strong freshman campaign before struggling in a final four matchup against Notre Dame that saw them blow an 18 point lead.
This was a minor setback for a more than major comeback in her legendary career. She followed up her freshman season with three consecutive national titles at UConn.
One of the most impressive parts of her three national title runs is that in her final two years she had to play with a constantly revolving lineup. Both teams had a completely different starting five.
Auriemma even remarked when asked about how he felt about the team’s chances to win the title her senior year, “We have Diana, and you don’t.” In her final two years at UConn she won the 2003 and 2004 Naismith College Player of the Year.
She wrapped up her college career with a record of 139-8. Following her legendary run with the Huskies, Taurasi was drafted number one overall to the Phoenix Mercury.
This was the start of a storied career in Phoenix that saw her become the greatest scorer we have ever seen in women’s basketball. The Glendale, CA native is the all-time leading scorer in league history with 8,994 points in her illustrious career.
Her ability to score the ball had multiple layers to it which is what made her virtually unguardable in her 20 years of playing basketball. Tina Thompson had set the all time scoring record at 7,488 in 496 games before Taursi surpassed it in just 377 games.
Taurasi’s prowess shooting from beyond the arc is also unmatched. She holds the record for three pointers made by 200 more than the next closest with 1,173. She is the only player ever to score 600 plus points in six consecutive seasons spanning 2006-2011.
In the 2006 season Taurasi broke the regular season record for points with withe 741 while averaging a league record 25.3 points per game. Taurasi also set a WNBA record with 121 three-pointers made in a single season including a game in which she made a league record eight threes.
As should be the case, players are judged more on what they do in the postseason than the regular season. Diana did what all great players do and dominated.
Following her historic 2006 season, she entered the WNBA Playoffs for the first time in 2007. Here she beat the defending champs Detroit Shock and became the first player ever to win an NCAA title, Olympic gold, and WNBA title.
Just two years later she was back in the Finals. Taurasi earned her second ring while scoring the most ever points in one postseason with 245 enroute to a championship title and earning her first Finals MVP.
She was one of only two players ever to win the scoring title, MVP, title and Finals MVP in one season.
Her third championship title came in 2014 along with a second Finals MVP in a sweep of the Chicago Sky which saw her hit the series clincher in Game 3. The shot was one she learned from an idol that was practiced countless times.
“Three hard dribbles going right,” Taurasi said at Bryant’s public memorial on Feb. 24. “Left foot plant, pivot, swing right leg through. Elevate, square up, follow through.”
This was the move she perfected before knocking down the jumper to seal her third title.
Taurasi is a big fan of the late great Laker legend Kobe Bryant. Her play on the court garnered the respect of the “black mamba” who was a huge advocate for women’s hoops.
Diana created the “white mamba” nickname for herself according to Bryant who said she came up to him and said “I’m the white mamba.” To which Kobe responded, “yes, yes you are.”
Taurasi earned the nickname for being a fearless scorer and a relentless worker that made her one of the WNBA’s finest.
Diana Taurasi’s resume speaks for itself as one of the truly gifted scorers and all around players the WNBA has ever seen. Her impact on the game has been immeasurable and she will go down in history as the greatest to ever do it.
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