Diana Taurasi is arguably the best player in WNBA history. At the very least, she is, without a doubt, the best scorer the league has ever seen. The Phoenix Mercury legend is already the WNBA's all-time leading scorer, and has now.
Some of her other accomplishments include, but are not limited to: three championships, one MVP, two Finals MVPs, 2004 Rookie of the Year, 14 All-WNBA appearances (all-time record), 10 All-Star apperances (tied for second all-time), five scoring titles (all-time record), the single-season scoring record (25.3 points per game in 2006), all-time playoff scoring leader (1,455 points), all-time 3-point leader (1,341), appearances on the 15th, 20th and 25th anniversary teams and five Olympic gold medals (tied for all-time record for a basketball player).
She is also one of the most clutch players the league has ever seen. For her career she is 16-2 in winner-take-all games and averages 22.6 points per game in those contests. That is not only the best record of any player in such games, but the highest scoring average as well.
After she made history yet again, here is a look back at some of the best moments of Taurasi's incredible career.
2004: No. 1 pick, Rookie of the Year, All-WNBA First Team, Olympic gold medal
After leading UConn to three consecutive NCAA championships, Taurasi was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft, and immediately established herself as one of the best players in the league. She averaged 17 points -- fourth in the league -- 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists, and was not only named Rookie of the Year but made All-WNBA First Team. Taurasi remains one of five players, along with Yolanda Griffith, Natalie Williams, Sue Bird and Candace Parker, to make All-WNBA First Team as a rookie.
If all that wasn't enough, she also helped Team USA win a gold medal at the Athens Olympics. Just making that team a few months after graduating college was impressive enough, but Taurasi actually finished tied for fourth in scoring and led the team in 3-pointers.
2005: First All-Star appearance
You may be wondering how Taurasi won Rookie of the Year and made All-WNBA First Team in 2004 without making the All-Star Game. The answer? There wasn't one. For most of its history, the league has not played the All-Star Game during Olympic years. As a result, Taurasi didn't make her first All-Star appearance until 2005. She was voted a starter and finished with 10 points and four assists for the victorious West team.
2006: Highest single-season scoring average in WNBA history
After an impressive first two seasons, Taurasi made history in her third campaign. She won her first scoring title that season by pouring in 25.3 points per game, which remains not only her career-high, but the highest single-season scoring average all-time. She had multiple 40-point games that season, including 47 against the Houston Comets on Aug. 10, which at the time was the highest scoring game in league history. It remains her career-best and is tied for the fourth-highest scoring game ever. Taurasi finished second in the MVP voting that season to Lisa Leslie.
2007: First championship
After a number of seasons hovering around .500, the Mercury finally broke through in 2007, winning 21 games to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They then cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs, before square off against the defending champion Detroit Shock.
Taurasi struggled in Game 1, but bounced back with a 30 points and eight rebounds in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1, and played well the rest of the way. In the winner-take-all Game 5 in Detroit, Taurasi went for 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists to stun the Shock and help the Mercury win the first title in franchise history.
2008: First of record-four consecutive scoring titles, second Olympic gold medal
The Mercury failed to even make the playoffs in 2008, but while they didn't defend their title, it was another excellent season for Taurasi on an individual level. She led the league in scoring for the second time in her career with 24.1 points per game -- still the second-highest single season scoring average in league history. That kicked off a historic run of four consecutive scoring titles; no other player has that many, let alone in a row. Taurasi's five scoring titles remains the mark to beat.
In addition, Taurasi played a key role on the 2008 Olympic team that cruised to a gold medal in Beijing. Taurasi led the team in 3-pointers (12), finished third in scoring at 10.9 points per game. Team USA won their games that tournament by an average of 37.6 points.
2009: Second championship, MVP, Finals MVP
After missing out on the postseason in 2008, the Mercury re-signed Penny Taylor (now Taurasi's wife) and drafted DeWanna Bonner, and returned to glory. Though Taurasi's individual numbers dipped a bit, she still put up 20.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 46.3/41.1/89.4 shooting splits to lead the Mercury to the best record and win her first and only MVP.
In the playoffs, she came up clutch time and again. The Mercury faced elimination four times during their run, including Games 4 and 5 of the Finals after falling down 2-1 to the Indiana Fever, and Taurasi averaged 23.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in those contests. In the title-clinching Game 5, she went for 26 points, six rebounds, four assists and three blocks, and was named Finals MVP.
2011: WNBA 15th anniversary team
Taurasi had not been in the league long enough to make the WNBA's All-Decade team in 2006, but when the league updated the list of its greatest ever players with the 15th anniversary team, Taurasi made the cut. She was the second-youngest player on the team, and one of three players on the list (along with Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes) to have an NCAA championship, WNBA championship, WNBA MVP and Olympic gold medal.
2012: Third Olympic gold medal
In 2012, Taurasi added to her hardware collection with a third gold medal at the London Olympics. By this point she had established herself as the best offensive player on the team, and led Team USA in scoring with 12.4 points per game, while shooting 45.5% from the field and 42.9% from 3-point land. Once again, the Americans dominated the field, winning by an averaged of 34.4 points per game.
2014: Third championship, second Finals MVP
Taurasi only played eight games in the 2012 season due to various injuries, which led to the Mercury entering the lottery and winning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. They used that pick to select Brittney Griner, and in short order reclaimed their place as the best team in the league.
With Taurasi leading the way, the Mercury finished 29-5, which remains the most wins in a single season in WNBA history. They were just as dominant in the playoffs, losing just once en route to their third title. Taurasi sealed the trophy with an extremely difficult go-ahead and-one leaner in the closing seconds of Game 3 against the Chicago Sky, and was named Finals MVP for the second time. At the time she was one of just three players to win that award more than once, and remains one of five to have done so.
2016: WNBA 20th anniversary team, Fourth Olympic gold medal
The 2016 campaign was a disappointing one for the Mercury. Taurasi shot under 40% for the first time in her career and they finished under .500. After sneaking into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed they were swept in uncompetitive fashion by the Minnesota Lynx in the semifinals, losing all three games by double digits.
Taurasi did find some team success with Team USA, however, leading the Americans to a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. This was the fourth gold for Taurasi, who was unstoppable in the tournament. She led the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game on 56.9% shooting, and dished out 3.3 assists as well.
Furthermore, Taurasi was included as a member of the WNBA's 20th anniversary team, which was released that year. She was one of two players from the Mercury to make the list, along with Cappie Pondexter.
2017: Becomes WNBA's all-time leading scorer and all-time leader in 3-pointers
The 2017 regular season went better for Taurasi and the Mercury, though they met the same fate in the playoffs as the the season before. This time, they were swept in the semifinals by the Los Angeles Sparks, despite a heroic effort from Taurasi in Game 3. She led a late comeback with a series of 3-pointers, including one that tied the game with 10 seconds to play, but Candace Parker responded with a game-winner to send the Mercury home.
During that season, Tauarsi made history by becoming the league's all-time leading scorer. In the second quarter of June 18 game against the Sparks, Taurasi drove to the basket and scooped home a layup to surpass Tina Thompson for first place on the scoring list with 7,490 points -- a total she's been growing ever since.
In addition, Taurasi also became the WNBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers that season, surpassing her former teammate, Katie Smith. Her record-breaking triple came during a June 1 game against the Chicago Sky. In the first quarter, she hit her 908th 3-ball, to claim first place on the all-time list, and has been growing her lead in that department ever since as well.
2018: 10th All-WNBA First Team appearance, becomes all-time playoff scoring leader
Both Taurasi and the Mercury had a bounce-back campaign in 2018. She finished tied for third in the league in scoring at 20.7 points per game, and was the only player in the top-five of both scoring and assists. As a result she was named to the All-WNBA First Team for the 10th time in career, which remains an all-time record, and finished fifth in the MVP voting.
Unfortunately for the Mercury, they once again crashed out in the semifinals, this time to the Seattle Storm in five games. During Game 1 of that series, Taurasi surpassed Tamika Catchings for first place on the league's all-time playoff scoring list with 1,142 points. She remains atop that leaderboard, and that won't change any time soon.
2020: 14th All-WNBA appearance
The 2020 WNBA season was a strange one, as the league descended on Bradenton, Florida to play a shortened season inside a bubble at IMG Academy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One sense of normalcy, though, was Taurasi scoring at will. She finished fifth in the league at 18.7 points per game, and was named to All-WNBA Second Team. That was her 14th All-WNBA appearance overall, which remains an all-time record that no active player is even within sight of.
2021: 10th All-Star appearance, WNBA's 25th anniversary team, voted WNBA GOAT by fans, record-fifth Olympic gold medal
The 2021 season was something of a last stand for Taurasi and the Mercury. She only played 16 games due to injuries, and missed their first-round single-elimination game against the New York Liberty, which the Mercury won by one. Taurasi then returned and managed to turn back the clock to help the Mercury make a surprise run to the Finals. In their upset over the Las Vegas Aces in the semifinals, she poured in a playoff career-high 37 points in Game 2, and led a spectacular fourth-quarter comeback in the winner-take-all Game 5. She was clearly not 100% in the Finals, however, as the Mercury fell to the Sky in four games.
During that season, Taurasi was selected as an All-Star for the 10th time in her career, which is tied with Tamika Catchings for the second-most all-time. In addition, she was named to the WNBA's 25th anniversary team. Taurasi was one of 13 players to make the 15th, 20th and 25th anniversary teams. Furthermore, the league held a fan vote to determine its Greatest of All Time, which Taurasi won.
In the middle of that summer, Taurasi once again suited up for Team USA and helped them bring home a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, which had been pushed back to 2021 due to COVID-19. While she still started every game, she took more of a back seat to the Americans' up-and-coming stars. Together with Sue Bird, she claimed her fifth gold, which is a record for basketball players -- men or women -- at the Olympics.