Seven of the WNBA legends named to the top 20 list overall have ties to the Seattle franchise. Bird and Jackson, who recently retired, are the cornerstones who led the Storm to two league championships (2004, 2010).
The announcement marked the 20th anniversary of the league’s inaugural regular-season game on June 21, 1997. Jackson, an Australian, remembered watching parts of the inaugural season. Although there was a professional league in her country, she was inspired to play in the WNBA.
Jackson, a 6-foot-6 post, was unproven when selected No. 1 overall by the Storm in 2001. When coupled with decorated point guard Sue Bird, the No. 1 overall pick in 2002, the duo won two WNBA championships and Jackson became a three-time league Most Valuable Player and 2007 Defensive Player of the Year.
“(Without) you babe, I don’t make this list,” Jackson tweeted to Bird on Tuesday.
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An eight-time All-Star, Jackson announced her retirement in March. She’s seventh all-time in league points scored (6,007), averaging 18.9 points and 7.7 rebounds in her 12-year career.
Bird is in her 15th season with the franchise, guiding Seattle through a 4-9 start this year.
A nine-time All-Star, she’s second all-time in career WNBA assists (2,286). Bird remains one of the league’s most popular players, and she set a record in 2007 as top vote-getter for the All-Star Game (128,838).
“From Day 1, we seemed to just fit,” Bird said of the pick-and-roll offense she played with Jackson.
“In a lot of ways, I wouldn’t be on this list either without her,” Bird said. “But if they named a top five, Lauren would be in that without a doubt. Maybe even top three if they named that. You look at her numbers, and she’s still in the top 10 in four categories, and she hasn’t played in four years. That’s saying a lot.”
Bird and Jackson are two of seven players named to the WNBA’s top 20 list who have Storm ties. Swin Cash, who helped Seattle win its 2010 title, played four seasons (2008-11) with the Storm. She also co-created the “StormCrazies” name for its fan base.
Retired former All-Stars Tina Thompson (2012-13 with Storm), Katie Smith (2011-12), Sheryl Swoopes (2008) and Yolanda Griffith (2008) also were named to the list.
Thompson, a 6-2 forward, was the league’s inaugural No. 1 overall draft pick in 1997. She went on to win four consecutive WNBA championships alongside Swoopes for the now-defunct Houston Comets.
Thompson is the WNBA’s all-time leader in points scored (7,488) and ranks third in rebounds (3,070).
The list of top 20 greatest and most influential players was selected by a 15-member committee of national media, Hall of Famers and league coaches.
“Some names that were left off that deserved a good look are definitely Tina Charles, Penny Taylor and Angel McCoughtry,” Bird said of the list. “Those are three that come to mind. But you say those names and then if you ask me, ‘Who would you take off?’ I wouldn’t have an answer for you.”