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Celebrating the 21st anniversary of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) since it first played its first game on 21st June 1997. Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, and Sheryl Swoopes attended the April 24, 1996 press conference where the NBA Board of Governors approved the creation of the women NBA.
New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks faced off in the first game of the eight-team League and Cynthia Cooper won the debut season’s Most Valuable Player award. The WNBA All-Star Game debuted two years later. Tina Thompson is the longest-playing WNBA player in history after being the League’s veteran for 17 years.
In recognition of the upcoming anniversary, we have compiled a balanced and objective list of the most significant 30 WNBA players of all times derived from credible and authoritative sources.
Candace Parker – First Female Player to Dunk Twice in Any Game
(Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
The WNBA drafted Candace in 2008. That same year, she was named the WNBA Rookie of the Year and WNBA Most Valuable Player. She also clinched the WNBA Most Valuable Player award in 2013. The versatile basketball player led the U.S. National Women’s Basketball team to win the gold medal in 2008 and 2012. She was the National Player of the Year at the 2007 and 2008 NCAA Championships. Candace’s WNBA awards include WNBA All-Star Game MVP in 2013, two WNBA Finals MVP awards and the WNBA Championship award in 2016.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Diana Taurasi – The White Mamba
(Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
Diana earned that nickname for her knack to score in crucial situations is the WNBA all-time leading scorer, a feat she achieved with 7,494 points. Fans recognized her talent by voting her one of WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time in 2011. Her Olympic Gold Medal, WNBA Championship and NCAA Championship awards make her one of the only nine women who has attained similar exploits. She has also won WNBA Rookie of the Year award, two WNBA Finals MVP awards and the WNBA Most Valuable Player award. Diana has featured seven times in WNBA All-Star teams and nine times in All-WNBA teams.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Maya Moore – The 10th Highest Female Scorer by Career Points
(Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)
WNBA first drafted Maya in 2011. Subsequently, she was part of the WNBA finals team during her first three consecutive years. She has won two Olympic gold medals and two World Championship gold medals. Her other achievements include winning WNBA Rookie of the Year award in 2011, WNBA Finals MVP award, WNBA Most Valuable Player award, four WNBA championships and two WNBA All-Star Game MVPs awards. Maya won the Euro League and Spanish league in 2012 and the Chinese league in three consecutive years. She says she would be a singer if she weren’t a pro-athlete.
Lauren Jackson – Only Player Born Outside the US to Win WNBA Most Valuable Player Award
(Photo by Stuart Hannagan/Getty Images)
Lauren joined the WNBA in 2001. She is one of three players to win the WNBA Most Valuable Player award thrice. The Australian superstar comes from a basketball family. Her parents played in the national basketball team. She won the Most Valuable Player award in Women’s Korean Basketball League and set a record after scoring 56 points. She was also named the Most Valuable Player four times in Australia’s WNBL. She is the greatest female basketball player of all time in Australia. In 2016, Lauren announced her retirement.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Tamika Catchings – First Player to Record the First-Ever Quintuple-Double
Former WNBA player Tamika Catchings speaks onstage during The 2017 MAKERS Conference Day 2 at Terranea Resort on February 7, 2017, in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for AOL)
Since her quintuple-double made history in 1997, she has won the WNBA Rookie of the Year award, WNBA championship, WNBA Finals MVP award, WNBA Most Valuable Player award, four Olympic gold medals, and five ‘WNBA Defensive Player of the Year’ awards. Her Olympic Gold Medal, WNBA Championship and NCAA Championship awards make her one of 9 women who has accomplished that feat. The prolific basketball player was voted one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time by fans in 2011. Her father was a professional basketball player. She made the All-WNBA team 12 times, the WNBA All-Star team ten times and the All-Defensive teams 12 times. Tamika, who has since retired from basketball, was the President of the WNBA Players Association for four years.
Lisa Leslie – First Woman to Win MVP Award, All-Star Game MVP and Playoff MVP award in the Same Season
Former WNBA player Lisa Leslie arrives at The 2015 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 15, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Lisa was part of the WNBA’s inaugural team after being drafted in 1997. She was the first WNBA player to dunk. Lisa has won the Olympic gold medal four times, the WNBA Most Valuable Player award and the WNBA all-time leading scorer award. She has been part of the WNBA All-Star team eight times and the WNBA championships team twice. Fans voted her one of the Top 15 players in WNBA history in 2011. Lisa is also a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. She announced her retirement from the WNBA in 2009.
Photo by Todd Warshaw / Allsport / Getty Images
Sue Bird – The WNBA All-Time Assists Record-Breaking Leader
Sue Bird, Seattle Storm point guard, speaks onstage during WE Day at KeyArena on April 20, 2016, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images)
WNBA drafted Sue in 2002. Her Olympic Gold Medal, WNBA Championship and NCAA Championship awards have made her one of the nine women to attain such an achievement. Sue has won two NCAA Championship awards, four Olympic gold medals, and two WNBA championships. She has also won the Euro League Women championship and the Russian Super League. Sue has been part of the WNBA All-Star team nine times and the All-WNBA team seven times. In 2011, she made it to the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time list after being voted for by fans who also voted her one of the Top 20 Players of All Time.
Sheryl Swoopes – First Player to be Signed Up by WNBA
(Photo by TonyTheTiger)
Sheryl is also the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her. She was named the Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Championship in 1993. Sheryl has won the WNBA Most Valuable Player thrice. In 2011, the three-time Olympic gold medallist was listed in the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time. Considered the “female Michael Jordan” for her versatile skills, she also coached the Loyola University women’s basketball team. Sheryl joined Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016 and had been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Cynthia Cooper – First Player to Win WNBA’s MVP award
(Photo by Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
Cynthia won the Most Valuable Player award four times; 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000. She also won an Olympic gold medal in 1988. Fans voted her one of the Top 15 players in WNBA history in 2011. She coached the University of Southern California women’s basketball team in 2013 as well as WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury in 2001 after retiring the previous year. She returned to playing in 2003 before announcing her permanent retirement in 2004. Cynthia has served as head coach for Prairie View (Texas) A&M University, Texas Southern University, University of North Carolina and the University of Southern California.
Elena Delle Donne – WNBA All-Time Leader in the Free Throw Percentage
Elena Delle Donne smiles while being interviewed during the espnW: Women + Sports Chicago event on April 20, 2016, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
The WNBA drafted Elena in 2013. She was named the WNBA Rookie of the Year the same year and the WNBA Most Valuable Player in 2015. Her other WNBA achievements include winning the scoring champion award and the WNBA Peak Performer award which she won in 2015. Elena is a six-time winner of the CAA Rookie of the week award. In addition to becoming an Olympic gold medallist in 2016, she is also a global ambassador for the Special Olympics.
Angel McCoughtry – First Louisville Women’s Basketball Player to Break the Career Scoring Record
WNBA player Angel McCoughtry attends the 2016 BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards at Woodruff Arts Center on September 1, 2016, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/WireImage)
The WNBA drafted Angel in 2009. She was named the Rookie of the Year that same year. Angel, who plays for the Atlanta Dream, has featured four times in the WNBA All-Star team. Since joining the League, she has won several awards; twice-WNBA Scoring Champion, twice-WNBA Peak Performer, and twice-WNBA Steals Leader. She has also won two Olympic gold medals and two World Championship gold medals. Angel has played overseas in Turkey where she has twice been named the Turkish National League champion as well as the winner of the Turkish President Cup.
Tina Thompson – The WNBA All-Time Leading Scorer
(Photos by Matt Riley, UVA Athletics)
Tina was among the first women to be drafted by WNBA. She has been part of the WNBA All-Star Game team nine times. She has led her team to win four WNBA championships. She also played for WNBA for 17 seasons. In 2011, fans voted her among one of the top 15 players in WNBA history. The now-retired basketball player who has won the Olympic gold medal twice played her last professional game on September 22, 2013. Tina currently coaches the Virginia Cavaliers women basketball’s team.
Lindsay Whalen – The WNBA All-Time Winningest Player
Lindsay Whalen #13 of the Minnesota Lynx brings the ball up court against the Los Angeles Sparks at Staples Center on June 16, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
WNBA drafted Lindsay in 2010. She has won the WNBA championship award four times and is placed third in WNBA assists history. She has taken part in more than 300 WNBA leagues, including five times in All-WNBA teams. The former Connecticut Sun point guard has also won the Olympic gold medal twice and played in the World Championships twice. Lindsay currently coaches the women’s basketball team of the University of Minnesota. The decorated player has been a professional player in Turkey, Czech Republic, and Russia.
Becky Hammon – Guinness World Record Holder for the Highest Throw Percentage in a WNBA Single Season
(Photo by Platon Shilikov)
Becky became the first full-time female assistant coach among all the leading professional sports in North America and the second woman to be an assistant coach in the history of NBA. This was after she was signed up by San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach on August 5, 2014. On July 3, 2015, Becky became the first female head coach for Spurs’ Summer League. She led the Spurs into clinching the Las Vegas Summer League title that same year. The previously overlooked player is now considered one of WNBA’s best and most popular players. In 2010, she set a free throw percentage record by making 97 out of 101 free throw attempts.
Rebecca Lobo – First Player to Break Massachusetts Basketball Scoring Record
(Photo by Simon Bruty/ALLSPORT)
Rebecca is one of WNBA’s original 1997 stars and the all-time leading scorer in the history of Massachusetts State. She has won the Associated Press’s Player of the Year award, the NCAA’s Woman of the Year award and the NCAA Final Four award for Most Outstanding Player. She was also awarded the Wade Trophy and the Naismith National Player of the Year award. Rebecca was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in April 2017. She has been working as a TV basketball analyst since her retirement from professional basketball in 2003.
Chamique Holdsclaw – The “Michael Jordan” of Women’s Basketball
Former WNBA player Chamique Holdsclaw speaks to the crowd at A Day to Change Direction – Laureus USA Service Project on May 2, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Laureus)
Chamique was drafted by WNBA in 1999 and won the Rookie of the Year award the same year. She was the only rookie in the league’s inaugural All-Star team. The then WNBA President, Val Ackerman, acknowledged her talent and likened her to Michael Jordan. He described her as the savior of both the WNBA and the Washington Mystics. She led the University of Tennessee in winning three consecutive championships awards and won the NCAA finals Most Valuable Player award. Chamique became the first woman ever to be named the College Basketball Player of the Week by ESPN. The Olympic gold medallist has also been the NCAA Player of the Year thrice. She announced her retirement in 2007 but resumed to play for San Antonio Silver Stars and Atlanta Dream. She retired permanently in 2010.
Seimone Augustus – First Female Athlete Ever to Have Her Jersey Retired by LSU
Copyright 2006 NBAE (Photo By David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
WNBA drafted Seimone in 2006. She has been part of the WNBA All-Star team seven times. She won the WNBA Rookie of the Year award in 2006 and the WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player award in 2011. She has led the Minnesota Lynx into winning the WNBA championship four times. In 2016, she was on the list of WNBA Top 20 at 20 that celebrated the League’s twentieth anniversary. The Summer Olympics four-time gold winner has also won a bronze award, two Honda Sports accolades, and three FIBA awards. In addition to playing for Lynx, Seimone also plays for the US national team and Dynamo Kursk.
Katie Smith – Only Player to Clinch Both the WNBA and ABL Championship Rings
(Photo by New York Liberty)
Katie has been a WNBA veteran for 19 years. She has scored more than 7000 points to become the women’s professional basketball’s all-time leading scorer. In 2011, fans voted her among the Top 15 WNBA Players of All Time and in 2016, they voted her among WNBA’s Top 20 at 20. Katie has been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame. Her other achievements include being the first WNBA All-Star games player to win for both Eastern and Western Conference teams. The current coach for New York Liberty will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.
Dawn Staley – Second African-American Coach to Win the NCAA Title
Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks directs her team against the Connecticut Huskies at Colonial Life Arena on February 8, 2016, in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
The WNBA drafted Dawn in 1999. She has been inducted into the American Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Fans voted her among the Top 15 players in WNBA history in 2011. Dawn has won three Olympic gold medals and carried the US flag at the 2004 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. She has been named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, WNBA Sportsmanship winner, NCAA Region Most Outstanding Player, the Final Four All-Tournament Most Outstanding Player, WNBA Entrepreneurial Spirit winner and the National Player of the Year, among other accolades. She is the current coach of the US Women’s National Basketball Team.
Brittney Griner – First Player to Dunk in a WNBA Playoff Game
Professional women’s basketball player Brittney Griner visits at SiriusXM Studios on April 8, 2014, in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)
Brittney was drafted by the WNBA in 2013 and was named part of the WNBA All-Star team the same year, but he missed it due to a knee injury. The Olympic gold medallist has been named Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player and won the AP Player of the Year award. The Phoenix Mercury player scored 2,000 points and blocked 500 shots to become the only NCAA basketball player to achieve such a feat. Brittney is the fifth tallest WNBA international player ever.
Teresa Weatherspoon – Best WNBA 3-Point Scorer of All Time
Teresa Weatherspoon of the New York Liberty expresses shock as she lies tangled in cables after falling out of bounds during an exhibition game against the University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, 1998. (photo by Bob Stowell/Getty Images)
Teresa was one of the original pioneers who formed the 1997 WNBA inaugural team. She has been part of the League’s All-Star team five times and has won the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year award twice. She earned a gold medal and a silver one in the Olympics and was also awarded the prestigious Wade Trophy in 1988. The four-time WNBA finalist was voted by fans into the Top 20 at 20 in 2016 that celebrated the twentieth anniversary of WNBA and the Top 15 players in WNBA history in 2011. Teresa who played in the WNA for eight seasons is also the League’s 3-point scorer of all time.
Cappie Pondexter – First Player to Win Three Consecutive Player of the Week Award for Western Conference
WNBA player Cappie Pondexter attends the Indashio show during Spring 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Hudson Terrace at on September 13, 2012, in New York City. (Photo by Skip Bolen/WireImage)
WNBA drafted Cappie in 2006. She won the WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player award the following year. The then-rookie was part of the All-Star team of the League’s Western Conference. She was named the Big East Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. Fans voted Cappie into the Top 15 players in WNBA history in 2011 as well as the League’s Top 20 at 20 in 2016. She currently plays for Los Angeles Sparks, which she joined this year.
Tina Charles – Fastest player in WNBA history
Tina Charles #31 of the New York Liberty in action during the Connecticut Sun Vs New York Liberty, WNBA regular season game at Mohegan Sun Arena on August 18, 2017, in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
The WNBA drafted Tina in 2010. She won the WNBA Rookie of the Year award the same year. In 2012, she clinched the WNBA Most Valuable Player award. She has been part of the WNBA All-Star team five times. She was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2009. The two-time Olympic gold medallist has also won the NCAA champion award twice. Tina currently plays for the New York Liberty.
Yolanda Griffith – Second-Ranked WNBA Player in Rebounds and Steals
(Photo by Thom Kendall – UMass Athletics)
The WNBA drafted Yolanda in 1999. The same year, she won the WNBA Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player and Newcomer of the Year awards. She has been a veteran of WNBA for 11 years and a part of the League’s All-Star team seven times. Fans appreciated her talent by voting her among the Top 15 players in WNBA history in 2011 and WNBA’s Top 20 at 20 in 2016. Yolanda was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014. The twice-Olympic gold winner is widely regarded as one of the greatest WNBA rebounders and defensive players in history. She currently coaches the UAlbany Great Danes.
Ticha Penicheiro – Second-Ranked WNBA Player for the Most Assists of All Time
(Photo by YouTube)
WNBA drafted Ticha in 1998. The skilled player known for her panache and flashy style won the prestigious Lifetime Wade Trophy the same year. She is considered as one of the best WNBA point guards of all time. The ODU Sports Hall of Famer has been part of the WNBA All-Decade team, All-Star team four times and All-WNBA team three times. Fans voted her among the Top 15 players in WNBA history in 2011 and WNBA’s Top 20 at 20 in 2016. Ticha is also a recipient of two Kodak All-American awards. She has been honored by the CAA four times and was named the WNBA Peak Performer in 2010.
Katie Douglas – The Eighth-Leading WNBA Scorer
Katie Douglas #32 of the Connecticut Sun looks on as she sits on the sidelines in Game three of the WNBA Finals against the Seattle Storm on October 12, 2004, at Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
WNBA drafted Katie in 2001. She has appeared for the WNBA All-Star team five times, All-Defensive team seven times and All-WNBA team four times. She won the Most Valuable Player award in 2006. Katie has played for CSKA Moscow, Wisla Can-Pack Krakow, and Galatasaray. She won silver at the World University Games in 1999. The 2012 WNBA Championship winner announced her retirement in May 2015 after a back injury limited her basketball career. She had been a WNBA veteran for 14 years. She is open to coaching basketball in future.
Erin Phillips – The WNBL and WNBA Champion.
Erin Phillips of the Crows poses for a photograph after being announced as the inaugural winner of the AFLW Best & Fairest during The W Awards at the Peninsula on March 28, 2017, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)
By the time she was 19, Erin had won the WNBL All-Star five times. She was drafted by WNBA in 2008 and was a WNBA veteran for nine years. The two-time WNBA Champion led Australia women’s national basketball team to clinch two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships in Brazil. She also won a silver medal at the Summer Olympics in 2008. Erin retired in May 2017 to focus on her family. Shortly afterward, she was appointed the director of player and franchise development for Dallas Wings.
Swin Cash – First WNBA Winningest Player
WNBA player Swin Cash speaks onstage at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund 27th Annual Awards Gala at the Washington Hilton on November 16, 2015, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Thurgood Marshall College Fund)
WNBA drafted Swin in 2002. Under her leadership, Detroit Shock WNBA team won their first WNBA Championship title the next year. She has been part of the All-Star team four times, won the WNBA All-Star Most Valuable Player award twice and the WNBA Championship three times. The two-time Olympic gold medallist has also won gold at the FIBA World Championship for Women. She is one of only six women to win an Olympic gold medal, WNBA Championship, and NCAA Championship. She has won the NCAA Championship twice.
Swin announced her retirement in 2016. The following year, she joined the New York Liberty as the Director of franchise development.
Deanna Nolan – Highest Vertical Leaper in WNBA History
(Photo by Twitter)
WNBA drafted Deanna in 2001. She has won the WNBA Championship three times and clinched the WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player award in 2006. In 2016, fans voted the shooting guard player as one of the Top 20 WNBA Players of All Time. Deanna has played in the Euro League championship, Russian championships and UMMC Cup MVPs. She was a WNBA veteran for eight years and featured in WNBA All-Star teams five times. Deanna is one of only six players with a Triple-Double in WNBA History.
Alana Beard – Fourth-Ranked Player in All-Time Steals in WNBA History
(Photo Credit to Alchetron)
WNBA drafted Alana in 2004. The WNBA Champion was honored with the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017. She has featured four times in the WNBA All-Star team and is the first NCAA basketball player to rack up more than 2,600 points, 400 steals, and 500 assists. The 2008 FIBA Americas Championship gold medallist also won bronze at the World Championships held in the Czech Republic. In 2007, Alana was the Israeli State Cup winner and Israeli National League champion. In 2009, she won the Polish National League and won the 2016 Spanish National League. Alana currently plays for the Washington Mystics.