She recently became the WNBA’s career scoring leader, but what really sets her apart is the staggering number of championships she’s won.
Who is the greatest female basketball player of all time?
“So we’re going there, huh?” Sue Bird said smiling after a Storm practice a few days ago. “Yeah, I get it. That’s where we’re at. … You have to ask it now and everybody will have their favorites.”
Bird, who the WNBA included among its top 20 players of all time last year, admits her bias toward today’s generation.
She acknowledged the pioneers of the game including Cheryl Miller, Ann Meyers and Nancy Lieberman.
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And the Storm’s star point guard said her former teammate Lauren Jackson should be included in conversations about the best ever.
However, in Bird’s mind there’s really no debate.
Diana Taurasi is the G.O.A.T.
“I think D continues to separate herself,” Bird said. “You look at her championships. The amount of them. You look at the fact that she’s now the (WNBA all-time) leading scorer, which is really a side story to the real thing in her ability to carry teams and will them to championships.
“I will go on record in saying she’s the best female basketball player ever.”
She’ll be playing Friday at KeyArena as Seattle (6-5) hosts Phoenix (6-5).
The 6-foot guard went home to Los Angeles and shattered Tina Thompson’s scoring record of 7,488 during a lopsided 90-59 loss on Sunday to the Sparks.
Former NBA great Kobe Bryant was on hand to cheer her on and referred to her as the “White Mamba” in postgame interviews (a nod to Bryant’s self-applied nickname). She also drew praise via social media from former NBA MVPs LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
“What an unbelievable accomplishment DT,” James said. “So happy for you and so proud of you. … You’ve set the standard not only for women’s basketball and so many girls that looked up to you, but in basketball in general.”
Thompson played 17 seasons and 496 games while Taurasi needed just 13 seasons and 377 games to break the record.
“Records are always meant to be broken,” Taurasi told The Arizona Republic this week. “I hope it does get surpassed one day by someone who sacrifices and struggles and does all those things it’s going to take to break it. There will be someone and when they do I’ll be right there giving them the crown.”
Taurasi’s scoring record may fall, but the Glendale, Calif., native has built a résumé that will be difficult to surpass.
“As a basketball player that’s what you’re trying to get to,” Storm forward Breanna Stewart said. “The way she plays the game, it’s not comparable to anyone else.”
Taurasi, who led Connecticut to three national titles, was the WNBA’s rookie of the year in 2004. She’s won three WNBA titles with the Mercury and was the finals MVP twice and the WNBA MVP in 2009.
The fiery sharpshooter, who is the WNBA’s career three-point leader, has won five scoring titles, was named to the all-WNBA team nine times and appeared in seven WNBA All-Star Games.
Taurasi has also won four Olympic medals and captured seven Russian league titles and six EuroLeague titles.
At 35, she’s still one of the WNBA’s best players. She ranks seventh in the league at 18.3 points per game and shooting 41 percent on three-pointers.
“She’s definitely changed the game of basketball,” Storm guard Jewell Loyd said. “She plays with so much passion.”
Taurasi’s true greatness isn’t her ability to score, but rather her ability to lead and win championships.
“What Diana does when you first meet her is she makes you feel like a million bucks,” Bird said. “She’s charismatic. She’s funny. She just has a way about her that makes you feel good whether you’ve known her for two minutes or 20 years.
“I think that applies on the basketball court. Obviously she’s a great player and an incredible talent, but what she does to her teams — that personality is infectious. She makes people play above themselves in a lot of ways. She brings the level play of her team up.”
Greatest of all time?
“There’s no doubt,” Loyd said.
|WNBA all-time scoring leaders|
|1, Diana Taurasi||7,494|
|2, Tina Thompson||7,488|
|3, Tamika Catchings||7.380|