Diana Taurasi is an icon in the world of hoops, and the perennial All-Star known as the “White Mamba” added another milestone to her illustrious WNBA career on Thursday night.
The 41-year-old became the first player in WNBA history to score 10,000 points, hitting the mark with a long 3-pointer during the third quarter of a game against the Atlanta Dream. She had season-high 42 points in Phoenix’s 91-71 victory to push her total to 10,024.
Like most of the greats in any sport, Taurasi has said she has always cared more about winning than milestones and records.
“I really don’t think about the number, I really don’t,” Taurasi said after scoring 29 points in a one-point loss to Indiana on Tuesday night. “I’ve always said I’ve just played basketball because I love to play. Literally the only reason why I keep showing up to the gym right now is because I still love to play and you know, this group still shows up every day.”
The group is showing up but not winning. Although Taurasi has been focused on trying to salvage a losing year for the only WNBA team she’s played for, it’s impossible to ignore the looming milestone.
Taurasi’s 10,000 points put her more than 2,500 ahead of second-place Tina Thompson. Taurasi, who has averaged 19.1 points during her career, had her first good chance at the milestone Thursday night against Atlanta and delivered.
“On behalf of the WNBA and basketball fans worldwide, I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Diana on reaching the incredible milestone of 10,000 points as she continues to author new chapters is an illustrious WNBA career.” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.
“Diana’s achievement stands as a testament to her skill, determination, and unwavering dedication to the game, which along with her competitive nature, has captivated fans with her incredible scoring ability, clutch performances, and unparalleled basketball IQ. We are honored to witness this milestone.”
DeWanna Bonner is the next closest active player on the list. The nearly 36-year-old Connecticut Sun forward is nearly 3,300 points behind Taurasi.
“What she’s been able to do for such a long period of time has been truly incredible,” said Bonner, who played with Taurasi for the first 10 years of her career in Phoenix. “I’ve seen firsthand how hard she works and what she’s done and its amazing.”
Current WNBA scoring leader Jewell Loyd has 4,458 points in her nine-year career. It would take her another 277 games if she averaged 20 points a game to reach the 10,000-point mark. Despite the fact the league has expanded its schedule to 40 games each year, Loyd doesn’t think she’d be playing long enough to score that many points.
Taurasi doesn’t remember most of her points, although the game in which she broke Thompson’s mark in 2017 will always be special because it was in her hometown of Los Angeles and the late Kobe Bryant was there. Taurasi broke Thompson’s record on a layup and after the game, Bryant dubbed her “White Mamba” as a spinoff of his moniker “Black Mamba.”
“I remember that because of where it was and who was there,” Taurasi recalled. “If you add up all the points I’ve scored overseas over the years, I’m way over 10,000.”
Her 10,000th point in WNBA happened in front of a friendly home crowd at the Footprint Center, and its significance isn’t lost on Taurasi.
“When it happens it will be a cool moment for our city, for our franchise,” she said. “Really for all the people who have been in my corner for a long time.”
Taurasi has been the cornerstone of the Phoenix franchise since she was drafted first in 2004 out of UConn. She not only is the career regular-season scoring leader, but also holds that mark in the playoffs, too. She’s won three WNBA championships for the Mercury and earned MVP of the Finals twice in her career.
“We are getting able to witness greatness in front of us,” interim Mercury coach Nikki Blue said. “You take for granted how good DT is. How she’s been this past 19 years. To witness her in this moment, it’s super special. I hope everyone watches and embraces the moment. She’s been the face of our organization and our league for several years.”
AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Phoenix contributed to this report.