Diana Taurasi, 10,000 points and the top five games of her career

M.A. Voepel, ESPN.comAug 4, 2023, 10:40 AM ET

CloseM.A. Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Asked what keeps her going in basketball at age 41, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi makes it sound almost involuntary.

“Obsession, addiction — all the things you try to stay away from,” Taurasi said. “All the things that keep pulling me back to the game of basketball. I’ve always said I’ve given my life to this game and I still love to play. I still love to prepare. I still love to compete. That’s what keeps me coming back.”

That, and nights like Thursday in Phoenix, when — in the midst of another challenging season results-wise for the Mercury — Taurasi turned back the clock, or perhaps just made time stand still for a while.

She not only hit the 10,000 career points mark — an unprecedented WNBA feat — in front of her home fans at Footprint Center in Phoenix. She did it with a 42-point performance in a 91-71 victory, another masterpiece in an already-full portrait gallery for the 2004 No. 1 draft pick from UConn.

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Taurasi has acknowledged she has days when she wonders why she’s not at the beach with her children, instead of being on a WNBA court facing some players young enough to be her kids.

But it all comes back to the most simple thing: true love, and how she’s not ready to give it up yet.

“It’s a lot of work, a lot of years, a lot of hours in the gym,” Taurasi said after Thursday’s victory. “And the thing with basketball is I don’t leave it at the gym. I take it home with me. I think about it all the time. I go to bed with it. Since I was a little kid, that’s just what it was. I still feel the same way. I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning having to do something with basketball. Tonight kind of puts that all in perspective.”

In 19 WNBA seasons, now with 10,024 points scored and all with the Mercury, Taurasi has had countless huge games. Here are five of her most memorable performances as the WNBA’s greatest scorer, all coming in the playoffs with the most on the line.



Diana Taurasi makes history as first 10,000-point scorer in WNBA history

Mercury star Diana Taurasi drills a 3 from way downtown to become the first player in WNBA history to reach 10,000 career points.

2007: Motor City equalizer

After three NCAA titles with UConn, Taurasi had to help rebuild the Mercury. Her first three seasons, 2004-2006, the Mercury didn’t make the playoffs, part of a six-year run in which they missed the postseason. But in 2007, Phoenix won the franchise’s first WNBA title.

Game 2 of the WNBA Finals at defending champion Detroit was a pivotal point in its 2007 playoff stretch. Phoenix had scored 100 points in the Finals opener — yet still lost by eight. Another loss in Detroit would send the Mercury back to Phoenix down 2-0 in the best-of-five series.

Taurasi didn’t let it happen, scoring 30 points in a 98-70 victory in which she made 7 of 14 3-point attempts. Afterward, she kept things loose, joking about the fact that then-Mercury coach Paul Westhead had worn two different shoes to the game.

“He needs some fashion advice,” Taurasi quipped. She then helped him obtain more jewelry: a WNBA championship ring. The series went the distance as Phoenix clinched the title with a Game 5 win back in Detroit.



Diana Taurasi up to 42 points after wild 3 while falling out of bounds

Diana Taurasi becomes the oldest player in WNBA history to reach 40 points with this off-balance 3-pointer for the Mercury.

2009: Sending home the Sparks

The Mercury had the league’s best record in 2009, but needed 30 points from Taurasi in Game 3 of the first-round series to get past the San Antonio Silver Stars. That set up a Western Conference finals matchup with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Taurasi, a Southern California native, had grown up a Lakers fan. She had attended the first-ever WNBA game between the Sparks and New York Liberty at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California, in 1997, while she was still in high school. And now she was going against Sparks legend Lisa Leslie in her last season in the WNBA.

Taurasi totaled 74 points in the three games of the West finals. Game 3 wasn’t her best shooting performance, going 6-of-16, but it was one of her grittiest games. Taurasi led the Mercury with 21 points and seven rebounds, holding off the Sparks as Leslie finished her Hall of Fame career with 22 and nine.

Afterward, Leslie graciously bestowed upon Taurasi the title of “best player in the game.”

“Coming from her — who for probably a decade was the most dominant and best player — it’s probably the highest praise you could get from another athlete in our world of women’s basketball,” Taurasi said.



Diana Taurasi thankful for support on historic night

Diana Taurasi addresses the Phoenix crowd after becoming the first WNBA player to reach 10,000 points.

2009: The finishing touch on a title

The Mercury had gone the distance against the Silver Stars and the Sparks just to get to the Finals, where they had to do the same against Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Fever. And Taurasi saved her best for last in the championship series.

The Mercury had faced elimination in Game 4 at Indiana, winning 90-77. Then in Game 5 back in Phoenix, Taurasi wasn’t going to let the title get away. She had 26 points, making four 3-pointers, as the Mercury won 94-86. Taurasi won her only WNBA regular-season MVP Award in 2009, and added the Finals MVP honor to it.



Mercury honor Taurasi with ‘one-of-a-kind’ gifts

The Phoenix Mercury gift Diana Taurasi with a trio of special items to honor her for reaching the 10,000-point mark.

2014: Stopping the Lynx

The Minnesota Lynx had become the powerhouse of the Western Conference starting in 2011, winning titles that year and in 2013. But at 29-5, the Mercury had the best regular-season record in 2014. It was the penultimate season of the WNBA’s playoff format of pitting the East vs. the West in the WNBA Finals, so to get there, Phoenix had to take out Minnesota.

The Mercury did that in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, 96-78, behind 31 points — including 13 in a row in one stretch — and seven assists from Taurasi, who went 12 of 17 from the field. Phoenix then swept the Chicago Sky in the Finals, as Taurasi matched her college total with her third WNBA title.

]”What can I say? There’s no player I’d rather have on my team,” then-Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said.

2021: Dealing out the Aces

In the regular season, the Mercury had finished five games behind the Las Vegas Aces, who were favored to win the teams’ semifinal series. Plus, Taurasi had something else very pressing on her mind during the 2021 playoffs: Her wife, former Mercury star Penny Taylor, was about to give birth to their second child.

She had a career playoff-high 37 points in a Game 2 win in Las Vegas, going 8 of 11 from 3-point range and nearly matching her age of 39. After splitting games in Phoenix, Taurasi was back on the Strip with the Mercury trying to win the series in Game 5.

Taurasi then scored 14 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter — including three 3-pointers — as the Mercury spoiled the party for the Aces with an 87-84 victory. Soon after she arrived home, her daughter was born at 4:24 a.m.

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