July 23, 2011
NEW YORK, July 23, 2011 - In celebration of the WNBA's 15th season, the league officially unveiled and honored its Top 15 Players of All Time during a special halftime ceremony aired live on ABC at Saturday's 2011 WNBA All-Star Game presented by adidas in San Antonio. Former University of Connecticut standouts, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, were among those 15 all-time greats.
Bird led UConn to national championships in 2000 and 2002 while Taurasi (2002, 2003, 2004) led the Huskies to three titles.
"The 15 athletes honored today represent an extraordinarily accomplished group and the very best in women's professional basketball from around the world," said WNBA President Laurel J. Richie. "In just the few months I've been with the WNBA, I have had an opportunity to meet each of the current players on this list as well as some of the legends who paved the way. I have found that they are not only tremendous athletes who have reached extraordinary heights on the court, but also terrific women who give unselfishly of their time in the community. I am proud to be associated with these outstanding women; and I am so pleased for them that the fans, media members, and the current generation of players and coaches, have chosen to recognize and honor them."
A panel comprising media members and basketball experts selected the 30-nominee ballot, giving consideration to such factors as oncourt performance and ability, leadership, sportsmanship, and community service, as well as to contributions to team success and the overall growth of women's basketball.
Voting for the league's Top 15 Players of All Time began on June 23 and was conducted among fans, who voted on WNBA.com, by select national and WNBA-market media, and by current players and coaches. The league weighted each of three voting groups to account for an equal percentage of the total vote.
"This list of 15 players is composed of exciting - and dominating - players from start to finish and highlighted by players of all kinds - scorers, playmakers, ballhandlers, rebounders, defensive wizards, leaders, and players who have brought out the best in their teammates," added WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations Renee Brown, who has been an executive with the WNBA since its inception. "I cannot think of 15 more deserving women to represent the more than 700 players who have taken the court wearing the WNBA logo on their uniform during our 15-year history."
The WNBA's Top 15 Players of all time:
Name WNBA Team (Current/Last) Previous Team(s)
Sue Bird Seattle Storm (2002-Current)
Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever (2002-Current)
Cynthia Cooper* Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2003)
Yolanda Griffith* Indiana Fever (2009) Sacramento Monarchs (1999-2007),
Seattle Storm (2008)
Becky Hammon San Antonio Silver Stars (07-Current) New York Liberty (1999-2006)
Lauren Jackson Seattle Storm (2001-Current)
Lisa Leslie* Los Angeles Sparks (1997-2006, 2008-2009)
Ticha Penicheiro Los Angeles Sparks (2010-Current) Sacramento Monarchs (1998-2009)
Cappie Pondexter New York Liberty (2010-Current) Phoenix Mercury (2006-2009)
Katie Smith Seattle Storm (Current) Minnesota Lynx (1999-2005), Detroit Shock (2005-2009), Washington Mystics (2010)
Dawn Staley* Houston Comets (2006-2006) Charlotte Sting (1999-2005)
Sheryl Swoopes Tulsa Shock (Current) Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2002-
2007), Seattle Storm (2008)
Diana Taurasi Phoenix Mercury (2004-Current)
Tina Thompson Los Angeles Sparks (2009-Current) Houston Comets (1997-2008)
Teresa Weatherspoon* Los Angeles Sparks (2004) New York Liberty (1997-2003)
"I'm absolutely flattered, though I think it's really important to recognize some of the players who helped create a foundation for our game even before the WNBA - people like Cheryl Miller, Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers," said Tamika Catchings, All-Star forward for the Indiana Fever. "They put our league on the map. I'm honored to be included in the same sentence as them."
"I don't know where to begin. To be voted as one of the Top 15 Players of All Time leaves me speechless. I have an overwhelming feeling of joy and appreciation," added WNBA legend Teresa Weatherspoon. "It tells me my hard work didn't go unnoticed, and to be voted in by the fans makes it even more special to me. The fans are the people I played before each and every night. All I can say is thank you!"
Top 15 Players Facts & Figures:
- 14 have earned Olympic medals (Jackson, three silver medals with Australia in 2000, 2004 and 2008; Hammon, a bronze medal with Russia in 2008; Weatherspoon, a gold medal in 1988 and a bronze medal with the U.S. in 1992, the rest gold medals for the U.S.)
- 11 have played on a WNBA championship team (Cooper, Swoopes, and Thompson with Houston in 1997-2000, Leslie with Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002, Bird and Jackson with Seattle in 2004 and 2010, Griffith and Penicheiro with Sacramento in 2005, Pondexter and Taurasi with Phoenix in 2007 and 2009, Smith with Detroit in 2006 and 2008)
- 10 members of the All-Decade Team selected in 2006 (the league's 10th season) are members of the Top 15 Players of All Time
- Nine won gold medals with the U.S. Olympic team in 2004 (Bird, Catchings, Griffith, Leslie, Smith, Staley, Swoopes, Taurasi, and Thompson)
- Seven won gold medals with the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 (Bird, Catchings, Leslie, Pondexter, Smith, Taurasi, and Thompson,)
- Six have won a total of 13 of 14 regular-season WNBA MVP awards (Cooper in 1997 and 1998; Griffith in 1999; Jackson in 2003, 2007, and 2010; Leslie in 2001, 2004, and 2006; Swoopes in 2000, 2002, and 2005; Taurasi in 2009)
- Six have won a total of 13 of 14 regular-season WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards (Catchings in 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2010; Griffith in 1999; Jackson in 2007; Leslie in 2004 and 2008; Swoopes in 2000, 2002, and 2003; Weatherspoon in 1997 and 1998)
- Four have won both WNBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season (Griffith in 1999; Jackson in 2007; Leslie in 2004; Swoopes in 2000 and 2002)
- Four are former No. 1 overall WNBA Draft picks (Bird in 2002, Jackson in 2001, Taurasi in 2004, and Thompson in 1997)
- Four have won a WNBA championship, an NCAA title, and a gold medal (Bird, Cooper, Swoopes, and Taurasi)
- Three were on the five-player Honorable Mention list for the All-Decade Team selected in 2006 (Penicheiro, Taurasi, and Weatherspoon)
- Three are currently head basketball coaches of women's collegiate programs (Cooper at UNC Wilmington, Staley at South Carolina, Weatherspoon at Louisiana Tech)
- Three are former members of the American Basketball League (Griffith, Smith, and Staley)
- Three played collegiate ball at Southern California (Cooper, Leslie, and Thompson)
- Two are original members of the WNBA, and still active as players in the league (Swoopes and Thompson)
- Two won WNBA Rookie of the Year honors (Catchings in 2002 and Taurasi in 2004)
- Two are current members of the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm (Bird and Jackson)
- Two played collegiate ball at Connecticut (Bird and Taurasi)
- One is the only player to win championships in both the ABL and WNBA (Smith with the Columbus Quest of the ABL in 1997 and 1998, and Detroit Shock in 2006).
- One is the daughter of a former NBA player (Catchings - father Harvey)
- One was the first player ever to sign with the WNBA (Swoopes, Oct. 23, 1996)
- One was the first collegian ever drafted in the WNBA (Thompson, April 28, 1997).
Colleges represented by the Top 15 players: Colorado State (Hammon), Connecticut (Bird and Taurasi), Florida Atlantic (Griffith), Louisiana Tech (Weatherspoon), Ohio State (Smith), Old Dominion (Penicheiro), Rutgers (Pondexter), Southern California (Cooper, Leslie, and Thompson), Tennessee (Catchings), Texas Tech (Swoopes), and Virginia (Staley)
About the WNBA
The WNBA - which features 12 teams and is the most successful women's professional team sports league in the world - is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. Following a 2010 season that included a fourth consecutive year of attendance growth, surging WNBA Finals ratings, and strong increases in traffic to WNBA.com and WNBA Mobile sites, the league tipped off its historic 15th season on June 3.
Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that improve the quality of life for all people, with a special emphasis on programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, increase breast and women's health awareness, support youth and family development, and focus on education. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.