Player Spotlight: Diana Taurasi

In the days following Kobe Bryant’s death #GirlDad trended. This occurred after ESPN anchor Elle Duncan gave a heart felt speech on the air. Men across the country soon followed, proudly showcasing their daughters with social media posts. The out pour of love for female athletes, and just girls in general was up-lifting.

However, there was one other thing that stuck out to me. An overwhelming majority of those same men have repeatedly bashed the WNBA and female athletes.

So maybe these guys missed the memo about Kobe being an ambassador for women’s basketball. Or maybe the idea of supporting women athletes, like Gigi Bryant was destined to become, isn’t something they are truly passionate about. Maybe they were more focused on using #girldad to get their retweets and IG likes.

I realize calling them out on this will have no impact on the celebration and acceptance of women athletes. But the very least I can do is use my platform to celebrate these dominant athletes and educate the idiots who assume they can actually beat a WNBA player.

So to start the women athletes series, here is a look at my favorite WNBA Player, the “White Mamba” Diana Taurasi.

Taurasi is one of the greatest female basketball players of all time. Her knack for scoring in crucial moments earned her the nickname “White Mamba”, first coined by Kobe Bryant. Over the course of their careers, Taurasi and Bryant formed a bond, one based off their love for the sport. They had such a strong relationship that Taurasi spoke at Kobe’s goodbye ceremony at Staples Center.

Early Years of Her Career

Taurasi was selected first overall in the 2004 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury. In her rookie season Taurasi averaged 17.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Taurasi made the All Star team and won the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award.

In 2006, Taurasi averaged a WNBA record 25.3 points, 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game, including a career-high 47 points. Her ascension to this elite level can be attributed to Former NBA coach Paul Westhead who brought his high paced style to the Phoenix Mercury.

In 2007, Taurasi won the WNBA Finals in their first playoff appearance. Taurasi became just the seventh player ever to win an NCAA title, a WNBA title, and an Olympic gold medal.

Taurasi’s Olympic Career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 20: (L-R) Gold medalists Diana Taurasi #12, head coach Geno Auriemma and Sue Bird #6 of United States celebrate during the medal ceremony after the Women’s Basketball competition on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Taurasi has quite the Olympic career. She was a member of the USA women’s 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 gold medal Olympic Basketball Teams. Often the best player on the team, Taurasi took great pride in leading the team and bringing home the gold.

Much like the men’s Olympic runs, the Women team dominated. During the gold medal years Taurasi was apart of, the USA often won games by 20 and 30 point margins.

History: MVP, Finals MVP, Scoring Title in the Same Season

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 5: Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury shoots the ball against the New York Liberty on June 5, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)

In the 2009 season, Taurasi was named the WNBA MVP and later led the Phoenix Mercury to its second WNBA championship in three years. Taurasi won Finals MVP, making her only the second player to win the season scoring title, the season MVP award, a WNBA Championship and the finals MVP in the same season.

In 2011, she was voted one of the Top 15 players in the fifteen-year history of the WNBA by fans.

Playing Overseas

In 2015, Taurasi announced that she would sit out the 2015 WNBA season, making the single most distraught thing about women sports in America. A Russian team offered to pay Taurasi 14x her WNBA salary to skip the 2015 WNBA season and play for them. For the 2014 WNBA season, Taurasi made just under the league maximum of $107,000. Her Russian team payed her $1.5 million.

Diana Taurasi Returns to the WNBA

Taurasi returned to the Mercury for the 2016 WNBA season averaging 17.8 ppg. She led the Mercury back to the Finals but lost.

On June 18, 2017, Taurasi became the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, passing Tina Thompson’s old record. Kobe Bryant and his daughters were in attendance to see Taurasi make history.


2018 WNBA Finals: The Pinnacle of the Sport

In the 2018 Finals, Taurasi went head to head with another all time great Sue Bird. The two put on an all time classic. This series has been the pinnacle so far for the league. Two all time greats playing in a 5 game series for the title, it doesn’t get much better than that. The series received quite the media coverage, but like all things women sports, was quickly pushed aside.  After being down 0-2 and facing elimination, Taurasi led the Mercury to back back wins, facing a final game 5. The Mercury would lose but it is still the best series in league history.

The all time scoring leader announced that she will be back for another season, her age 39 season.

Career Accolades

  • 3× WNBA champion (2007, 2009, 2014)
  • 2× WNBA Finals MVP (2009, 2014)
  • WNBA MVP (2009)
  • 9× WNBA All-Star
  • 10× All-WNBA First Team
  • 5× WNBA scoring champion
  • WNBA assists leader
  • WNBA all-time scoring leader
  • 4× USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year
  • 6× Euroleague champion
  • 7× Russian National League champion
  • USBWA Women’s National Player of the Year
  • AP College Player of the Year

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