One of the most common questions surrounding the women’s game today is when it will find its Michael Jordan.
Then come the follow-up questions. What will she look like? Where did she go to school? What team will she play for?
In reality, people should put these questions to rest and search no further because the best player in the women’s game is already playing.
She wears No. 3 for the Phoenix Mercury, choosing the number as a freshman at UConn when college coach Geno Auriemma told her she could be the Babe Ruth of women’s basketball.
He was right.
After winning two NCAA titles, the UConn legend went on to win two WNBA championships, five scoring titles and two Olympic gold medals. Averaging 20.6 points per game on her career, she’s also an eight time all-star, tying Lisa Leslie for the most appearances in league history.
Based on those clues, if you still don’t know who I’m referring to, this one of a kind player is Diana Taurasi.
Like Mike, Taurasi makes her teammates better while knowing when to put the team on her back. She’s not only their vocal leader, but a lead by example kind of player. This season, she averaged 20.2 points and 6.2 assists per game. Last season, the only players in the NBA to accomplish these kinds of numbers were LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook and Stephan Curry. And they did it in 48 minutes; Taurasi only gets 40.
Quite honestly, one of the reasons that Taurasi is the WNBA’s Jordan is that she plays more like a guy. You can actually compare her. She can shoot threes from NBA range, and often does. She loves contact when driving inside and has incredible hang time for a woman.
Beyond her play though, Taurasi has the mentality of a man. While she would do anything for the team, she certainly has an ego. Her fiery personality often leads to arguments with referees, which adds to her entertainment value. When you watch ‘Dee,’ you look for her to get T’d up because when she does, it usually means she’s going to go on a scoring tangent.
But despite the fact that there is typically one player believed to be the best ever, there is never one player that will always be the best. Deciding the top player in any league is always controversial and there will always be a better player that comes along. Jordan is the best NBA player to play in the modern era, but there will be another, just like before Jordan there was Dr. J and Wilt Chamberlain.
The game of basketball is constantly evolving and as a result, it’s impossible to compare players from different time periods. So, Taurasi is the best right now, but at some point in time, there will be a next best women’s player to play the game. She won’t necessarily be better than Taurasi when compared to the time she plays in, but the game will have grown and changed its style.
Another comparison that can’t be made in the sport of basketball is men to women. Taurasi has a more masculine style of play, which allows the comparison, but overall, the men and women’s game are too different. When the women find its best player ever, like Jordan is considered, nobody will be saying that she’s the women’s version of Jordan.
While basketball is basketball, men and women play extremely different styles, the men being more athletic and the women playing a more strategic, finesse game.
So, when that best player ever arises for the women, you’ll know it because there will be no comparison to the men. The game will have reached the point where women will be respected.
You’ll simply hear, “That’s _________ and she’s the best player to ever play the women’s game.”
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo courtesy of wnba.com