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To commemorate the WNBA’s 25th anniversary, a ranking of the Top 25 players of all-time

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 21, 2021

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (10) brings the ball up court against the Minnesota Lynx in the third quarter of a WNBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Minneapolis.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (10) brings the ball up court against the Minnesota Lynx in the third quarter of a WNBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in Minneapolis. (Associated Press)
By Percy Allen Seattle Times

To commemorate its 25th anniversary, the WNBA asked fans to choose who is the league’s greatest from its “The W25,” a collection of all-time top players. The two-week voting window on WNBA.com and Twitter end at 9 p.m. Pacific time Sunday.

So who do you got? Tamika Catchings or Sue Bird?

“Nah, I’ll pass,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said smiling. “I know too many people who you could give that to. … But I like that the league is having these conversations because it’s good for our game.”

C’mon, that’s no fun. Make a pick. Sheryl Swoopes or Lauren Jackson?

“It’s so subjective,” Jackson said. “I’m going to have to go with longevity, so I’m going to have to go with Bird. … In terms of her ability to bring the best out of people, there’s nobody better.”

Bird has a differing opinion.

“For my money, it’s DT,” the Storm guard said of Diana Taurasi of Phoenix. “Her résumé and her career speaks for itself.”

Make no mistake, the GOAT conversation will continue long after whoever garners the most ballots in the WNBA’s fan vote is declared.

To help you get started, here’s a comprehensive list of the WNBA’s top 25 players that takes into account statistics, championships, achievements and milestones compiled by yours truly who covered the league’s first game July 21, 1997.

25. TICHA PENICHEIRO

Position: Point guard

WNBA career: 15 seasons (1998-2012)

Teams: Sacramento (1998-2009), Los Angeles (2010-11), Chicago (2012) Comment: Prototype playmaker and four-time WNBA All-Star who led league in assists seven times and ranks second in career assists.

24. TAJ McWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN

Position: Power forward

WNBA career: 14 seasons (1999-2012)

Teams: Orlando (1999-2002), Connecticut (2003-06), Los Angeles (2007), Washington (2008), Detroit (2008-09), New York (2010), Minnesota (2011-12)

Comment: Six-time WNBA All-Star who won league titles with the Detroit Shock and Minnesota Lynx.

23. SWIN CASH

Position: Small forward

WNBA career: 15 seasons (2002-16)

Teams: Detroit (2002-07), Seattle (2008-11), Chicago (2012-13), Atlanta (2014), New York (2014-16)

Comment: Four-time WNBA All-Star did a little bit of everything and ranks 12th in her career in rebounds (2,521), 20th in points (5,119), 23rd in assists (1,133) and 27th in blocks (258).

22. CAPPIE PONDEXTER

Position: Point guard

WNBA career: 13 seasons (2006-18)

Teams: Phoenix (2006-09), New York (2010-14), Chicago (2015-17), Los Angeles (2018), Indiana (2018)

Comment: The seven-time WNBA All-Star who ranks fifth in career scoring (6,811) is probably too low on this list.

21. KATIE SMITH

Position: Shooting guard

WNBA career: 15 seasons (1999-2013)

Teams: Minnesota (1999-2005), Detroit (2006-09), Washington (2010), Seattle (2011-13), New York (2013)

Comment: The seven-time WNBA All-Star was a prolific scorer who ranks seventh with 6,452 career points.

20. TERESA WEATHERSPOON

Position: Guard

WNBA career: Eight seasons (1997-2004)

Teams: New York (1997-2003), Los Angeles (2004)

Comment: One of the WNBA’s pioneers and most important players who helped launch the league. The two-time defensive player of the year hit one of the most memorable shots in WNBA history — a 50-foot winner as time expired in Game 2 of 1999 WNBA Finals.

19. LINDSAY WHALEN

Position: Point guard

WNBA career: 15 seasons (2004-18)

Teams: Connecticut (2004-09), Minnesota (2010-18)

Comment: The run on greats from the Minnesota Lynx’s dynasty begins with the four-time WNBA champion and five-time WNBA All-Star who ranks third in career assists (2,348) and 14th in steals (500).

18. NNEKA OGWUMIKE

Position: Power forward

WNBA career: Nine seasons (2012-present)

Teams: Los Angeles

Comment: Her 2016 WNBA MVP, six WNBA All-Star appearances and combined eight All-WNBA and All-Defensive team honors puts Ogwumike solidly among the top 20 players in league history. Strange to think she’s never played in the Olympics for the U.S. women’s national team.

17. SEIMONE AUGUSTUS

Position: Small forward

WNBA career: 15 seasons (2006-present)

Teams: Minnesota (2006-19), Los Angeles (2020-present)

Comment: The eight-time WNBA All-Star and 2011 WNBA Finals MVP was arguably the third-best player on the Minnesota Lynx dynasty, which won four WNBA titles.

16. TINA CHARLES

Position: Center

WNBA career: 11 seasons (2010-present)

Teams: Connecticut (2010-13), New York (2014-19), Washington (2020-present)

Comment: The eight-time WNBA All-Star and 2012 WNBA MVP would be much higher on this list if she had a WNBA title.

15. BREANNA STEWART

Position: Power forward

WNBA career: Five seasons (2016-present)

Teams: Seattle

Comment: The thee-time WNBA All-Star, two-time Finals MVP and 2018 WNBA MVP is just 27 years old. At her current pace, Stewart will rank among the league’s top five in 10 years.

14. BRITTNEY GRINER

Position: Center

WNBA career: Eight seasons (2013-present)

Teams: Phoenix

Comment: The seven-time WNBA All-Star, two-time defensive player of the year and 2017 league scoring champion has the size (6 feet 8) and skillset that makes her virtually unstoppable and arguably one of the best centers in league history.

13. ELENA DELLE DONNE

Position: Small forward

WNBA career: Eight seasons (2013-present)

Teams: Chicago (2013-16), Washington (2017-present)

Comment: Only player to win a WNBA MVP with two different teams. When the six-time WNBA All-Star is healthy and at her best, there’s few in league history who can match her versatile offensive skillset. Unfortunately, she’s played just three games since winning a WNBA title in 2019 due to a back injury.

12. YOLANDA GRIFFITH

Position: Center

WNBA career: 11 seasons (1999-2009)

Teams: Sacramento (1999-2007), Seattle (2008), Indiana (2009)

Comment: Former ABL star who won WNBA MVP, defensive player of the year and newcomer of the year during her first year in the league in 1999. In 2005, led the Sacramento Monarchs to their only WNBA title and won Finals MVP when she was 35.

11. SYLVIA FOWLES

Position: Center

WNBA career: 13 seasons (2008-present)

Teams: Chicago (2008-14), Minnesota (2015-present)

Comment: At 35, the seven-time WNBA All-Star, two-time Finals MVP and two-time defensive player of the year has accomplished a little bit more than Griner, who is five years younger. Fowles was a three-time All-Star with Chicago, but garnered Hall of Fame status after joining Minnesota and helping the Lynx to two WNBA titles.

10. TINA THOMPSON

Position: Power forward

WNBA career: 17 seasons (1997-2013)

Teams: Houston (1997-2008), Los Angeles (2009-11), Seattle (2012-13)

Comment: The longest-tenured member of the Houston Comets’ famed Big Three lands just inside the top 10. The nine-time WNBA All-Star was one of the league’s first stretch-4, a forward who ranks fifth in career three-point field goals (748) and seventh in rebounds (3,070).

9. MAYA MOORE

Position: Small forward

WNBA career: Eight seasons (2011-18)

Teams: Minnesota

Comment: One of the most difficult players to evaluate because the six-time WNBA All-Star was on track to enter GOAT conversations before walking away from the game when she was 29 to focus on advocacy and criminal justice reform. The 2013 Finals MVP and 2014 WNBA MVP was the biggest reason why Minnesota won four WNBA titles.

8. CYNTHIA COOPER

Position: Shooting guard/point guard

WNBA career: Five seasons (1997-2000, 2003)

Teams: Houston

Comment: It’s also easy to play the what-if game with Cooper who began playing in the WNBA when she was 34. She won the league’s first two MVP awards (1997 and ‘98), led the league in scoring three times (1997, ‘98 and ‘99) and captured four Finals MVP honors. Her 21.0 career scoring average ranks first in league history.

7. CANDACE PARKER

Position: Power forward/center

WNBA career: 13 seasons (2008-present)

Teams: Los Angeles (2008-20), Chicago (2021-present)

Comment: The GOAT conversation starts with the two-time WNBA MVP, 2016 Finals MVP and 2020 defensive player of the year. If the six-time WNBA All-Star can lead the Chicago Sky to its first WNBA title during the latter stages of her career, then she’ll undoubtedly move up this list.

6. LAUREN JACKSON

Position: Power forward/center

WNBA career: 12 seasons (2001-12)

Teams: Seattle

Comment: The seven-time All-Star was the complete package and one of two players to win three WNBA MVPs. She also captured two WNBA titles, a Finals MVP in 2010 and a defensive player of the year award in 2007.

5. SUE BIRD

Position: Point guard

WNBA career: 19 seasons (2002-present)

Teams: Seattle

Comment: The 12-time WNBA All-Star is the consummate winner who has captured four league titles in three decades. Proving that availability is the best ability, the indomitable Bird ranks first in career games, first in assists, fourth in steals and sixth in points.

4. DIANA TAURASI

Position: Point guard

WNBA career: 17 seasons (2004-present)

Teams: Phoenix

Comment: The most prolific scorer in WNBA history is a three-time league champion, two-time Finals MVP and 2009 WNBA MVP. Taurasi is a once-in-a-lifetime offensive weapon whose record-shattering 9,174 career points is 2,304 more than the next active player. Taurasi has led the league in scoring five times and she had a season for the ages in 2006 when she averaged 25.3 points, a league record.

3. TAMIKA CATCHINGS

Position: Small forward

WNBA career: 15 seasons (2002-16)

Teams: Indiana

Comment: The 10-time WNBA All-Star is arguably the best two-way player in league history who has been selected to 12 All-WNBA teams and 12 All-Defensive teams. Catchings dominated on the defensive end where she led the league in steals eight times and won five defensive player of the year awards. She also captured the 2011 WNBA MVP and led the Indiana Fever to its only league title in 2012 while capturing Finals MVP honors. Catchings never had a superstar teammate and she might have garnered more fan appeal if she played in a bigger market.

2. LISA LESLIE

Position: Center

WNBA career: 13 seasons (1997-2009)

Teams: Los Angeles

Comment: The eight-time WNBA All-Star was a marquee sensation for one of the league’s premier teams when the WNBA desperately needed marketable stars to sell to fans and sponsors. Leslie dominated with flare and personality. The three-time WNBA MVP and two-time defensive player of the year led L.A. to a back-to-back titles in 2001 and ‘02 while capturing a pair of Finals MVP honors. Leslie also ranks third in career blocks, fourth in rebounds, ninth in points and 16th in steals.

The GOAT ?? … SHERYL SWOOPES

Position: Shooting guard/small forward

WNBA career: 13 seasons (1997-2008, 2011)

Teams: Houston (1997-2007), Seattle (2008), Tulsa (2011)

Comment: The only player to win three WNBA MVPs and three defensive player of the year awards. The four-time WNBA champion and six-time WNBA All-Star was voted to seven All-WNBA teams and twice received All-Defensive team honors. (Note: The WNBA did not select an All-Defensive team before 2005.) Swoopes led the league in scoring in 2000 and ‘05 and was the steals leader in 2000 and ‘03. At the height of her powers, Swoopes, the first WNBA player to record a triple double in the regular season and playoffs, drew comparisons to Michael Jordan due to her ability to dominate on both ends of the court. She also was the first WNBA player to receive a signature shoe deal with Nike.

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