Diana Taurasi began to get frustrated when the questions started coming in. She knew they would eventually be asked, but it was still too soon for reporters to bombard her at this point of the season.
“I said I was going to do it and it was going to happen organically, but at one point, I was like, ‘Can we just get this over with already?’” says Taurasi, on Wednesday afternoon via a conference call, regarding the Qs about breaking the WNBA’s all-time points record. “I was, like, 81 points behind and they were asking me what I thought…it got to the point where I just really wanted to get it over with so our team can move on.”
Last Sunday, the Mercury traveled to Staples Center to face the defending champion Sparks on Father’s Day. And then it happened.
In the second quarter with under a minute to go, Taurasi received the ball at the top of the key as she patiently waited for a screen from Emma Cannon. Once it came, Taurasi turned the corner and went around Nneka Ogwumike for a layup to officially make her the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer.
After the play, the game was stopped as everyone in attendance acknowledged her with a standing ovation. Despite it technically being an away game, Taurasi, a native of Chino, CA, a city about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, was right at home.
“Yeah, it was huge [for] my family to not only being there, but friends, coaches that I hadn’t seen in years came to the game,” says Taurasi, who starred at Don Lugo Antonio HS. “It’s been a long time playing in the WNBA, [and] for them to all be there in Los Angeles where I grew up and played most of my basketball early on in my career—that just meant a lot. It’s the arena where I used to watch Kobe play every single week.”
In the same arena Bryant broke a plethora of records during his 20-year career with the Lakers, he was one of those acknowledging fans in attendance with his two daughters, Gianna and Natalia, as they sat courtside and witnessed history.
“It’s huge and I respected and admired the way Kobe did it,” says Taurasi. “His talent is one of a kind, but his work ethic is one of a kind, too.”
The level of respect is mutual from the Black Mamba to the White Mamba, the nickname Bean gave DT for noticing the same desire and competitiveness she had when stepping foot on the hardwood.
“To be that great for so many years is a testament to her work ethic and commitment to the game,” Bryant told ESPN after the game. “Her intellect and sacrifice—she’s just a phenomenal athlete.”
Mercury head coach Sandy Bordello, who’s been at the helm since 2013, knew the kind of player Taurasi was during their time with UMMC Yekaterinburg, a basketball club in Russia, Taurasi and Britney Griner play on in the offseason.
“I think her will to win,” says Brondello, on what separates Taurasi from other players she’s coached. “She’s very driven and is going to do anything it takes…It’s all about winning for her.”
It took Taurasi 13 seasons and 377 games to move up to No.1—four years and 100 games less than Tina Thompson. Thompson, along with LeBron James, Kevin Durant and others congratulated her on the milestone on social media.
“There’s a certain synergy about basketball players that we have certain respect for each other,” says Taurasi of the support amongst her peers. “That meant the world to me.”
Since entering the league in 2004 under Geno Auriemma’s tutelage, the array of accolades amassed over the years has solidified her to be up there with the WNBA’s all-time greats.
“Those names paved the future for us and they were able to make an impact,” says Taurasi on her predecessors. “If I left a little mark of me being a little bit more popular or visible or being able to set the standard a little bit higher, I’m just proud and have so much respect for every player that’s played in the WNBA.”
After signing a contract extension till 2020, the three-time champ will look to bring more hardware to the Phoenix faithful. And along the way, more points will be scored and there’ll potentially be more firsts.
Just chill out on asking about other record-breaking questions too soon.
Drew Ruiz is a contributor to SLAM. Follow him @DrewRuiz90.