Originally published in SLAM 150

by Ben York / @bjyork

The WNBA has just begun its 15th season of play. So has the Los Angeles Sparks’ Tina Thompson.

The consummate example of a living legend, Thompson was the league’s first-ever pick in 1997’s Draft, is the WNBA’s all-time leader in scoring (6,413 points) and minutes played (13,711) and has won four WNBA Championships and two Olympic Gold medals.

“My greatest accomplishment as a basketball player was winning our four championships in Houston,” Thompson says. “We were really the first dynasty in the WNBA. Those championships set the tone for my career.”

During those years in Houston, Thompson’s running mate was the great Sheryl Swoopes (who recently rejoined the WNBA as a member of the Tulsa Shock after an extended hiatus). Together, they formed one of the greatest tandems the league has ever seen.

“The fact that [Tina] did what she did in Houston and then to move on to Los Angeles and still have a huge impact on the Sparks and the league says a lot about the caliber of player she is as well as a person,” says Swoopes. “She’s always been a good friend of mine. I don’t know if this will be her last year or not—she’s been saying that for the last couple years—but she can still play. As long as she is still enjoying the game, she is going to continue to have a huge impact on women’s basketball.”

For her part, Thompson’s shown few signs of slowing down.

“When it is all said and done, I want to be remembered as an adamant professional,” says Thompson, who averaged 16.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season. “It has been a blessing to have had the longevity that I’ve had. More importantly, it has allowed me to take care of my family, travel the world and expose my son [Dyllan] to all those things. The experiences that I’ve had through basketball have helped shape who I am as a person, and I am forever grateful for that.”