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WNBA Top 20@20: Our list of the WNBA's 20 Greatest Players to Date

Jun 21, 2016

Happy birthday WNBA!  Boy, I remember when I turned twenty; that was a fun, but tough time.  You are old enough to have a past, and young enough to have a future!  You have accomplished a lot, and you have a lot more to accomplish. It is a good time to reflect back while looking ahead. Which is exactly what is happening, as the league will announce its list of the twenty greatest players (to date) in the WNBA’s twenty year history.

As you know, they previously released 60 names that met an assortment of criteria, all explained here. From that list a selected committee is choosing twenty names and anointing them the best in the WNBA’s twenty year history. It is a panel of a great deal of esteem, but one group is missing, the fans themselves.

So, here at Dishin & Swishin, we have taken on the daunting task of tweeting, DMing, texting, and actually talking to fans, other journalists, and current and former players for their thoughts, memories, and suggestions.

From there, the first thing we did was narrow the list of sixty, to a slightly more manageable list to sort through.  Eliminated were the too young group, the not enough success group, the not enough honors group, and the just doesn’t feel right group a/k/a the fails the eye test group.

We will present them to you grouped by position (sort of), in no particular order.

Posts (Fours and Fives) – total of nine:

Lisa Leslie, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Margo Dydek, Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles, Yolanda Griffith, Lauren Jackson, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Candace Parker

Wings (Twos and Threes) – total of fourteen:

Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes, Chamique Holdsclaw, Maya Moore, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, Angel McCoughtry, Penny Taylor, Katie Smith, Cappie Pondexter, Katie Douglas, Cynthia Cooper, Seimone Augustus, Nykesha Sales

Point Guards (Ones) – total of seven:

Sue Bird, Lindsay Whalen, Diana Taurasi, Teresa Weatherspoon, Dawn Staley, Ticha Penicheiro, Becky Hammon

So, if you tally those, we have cut the list in half, knocking it down to thirty. Surely it would be easy to cut it to twenty right? HA, was I wrong! It got harder, not easier.

Sure there were some very easy, obvious choices to be in the top twenty, but those last ones, they are so close in so many ways that getting down to twenty was extremely difficult, and in some cases came down to small differences in statistics, a championship win, first or second team All-WNBA selections, or what they did in their careers in certain circumstances.

Which leads us after much conjecture, to our list of twenty. We hope you enjoy our perspective. Maybe it even matches yours!

20. Becky Hammon, New York/San Antonio

The little engine that could; many said she couldn't, but she did. Still blazing trails in the coaching world.

  • 6× WNBA All-Star (2003, 2005–2007, 2009, 2011)
  • 2× All-WNBA First Team (2007, 2009)
  • 2× All-WNBA Second Team (2005, 2008)
  • WNBA Assist Leader (2007)

19. Ticha Penicheiro, Sacramento/Los Angeles/Chicago

Showtime in the early WNBA! Not a scorer (she did not have to be) but an incredible distributor that you had to keep your eyes on at all times to see what would come next

  • WNBA Champion (2005)
  • 4× WNBA All-Star (1999–2002)
  • 2× First Team All-WNBA (1999–2000)
  • Second Team All-WNBA (2001)
  • 7× WNBA assists leader (1998–2003, 2010

18. Seimone Augustus, Minnesota

Consistency, the unassuming superstar who willingly took a back seat to win as the Lynx added talent

  • WNBA All-Rookie Team (2006)
  • WNBA Rookie of the Year (2006)
  • First Team All-WNBA (2012)
  • 5× Second Team All-WNBA (2006, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014)
  • 6× WNBA All-Star (2006, 2007, 2011, 2013–2015)
  • 3× WNBA champion (2011, 2013, 2015)
  • WNBA Finals MVP (2011)

17. Chamique Holdsclaw, Washington/Los Angeles/Atlanta

Injuries and off court issues have impacted perception of her, but for her too short career she was a spectacular player that could impact both ends of the court equally.

  • WNBA Rookie of the Year (1999)
  • 6× WNBA All-Star (1999–2003, 2005)
  • 2× WNBA rebounding champion (2002, 2003)
  • WNBA scoring champion (2002)

16. Swin Cash, Detroit/Seattle/Chicago/Atlanta/New York

All she does is win, she revitalized the Detroit franchise that was struggling and won two titles there, plus a third in Seattle.

  • 4× WNBA All-Star (2003, 2005, 2009, 2011)
  • 2× WNBA All-Star MVP (2009, 2011)
  • 3× WNBA champion (2003, 2006, 2010)

15. DeLisha Milton-Jones, Los Angeles/Washington/New York/Atlanta

The ultimate role player, always put her individual stats behind those of her teammates in order to win. Could have had more individual honors for her Sparks career but deferred willingly, playing defender, enforcer, and so much more

  • 3× WNBA All-Star (2000, 2004, 2007)
  • 2× WNBA champion (2001, 2002)

14. Tina Charles, Connecticut/New York

Hard to believe this is only her seventh season when you read the numbers below; a quiet person by nature, makes big noise on the court and with her foundation is becoming one of the most philanthropic players in the league.

  • WNBA Most Valuable Player (2012)
  • WNBA Rookie of the Year (2010)
  • 4× WNBA All-Star (2011, 2013–2015)
  • 3× First Team All-WNBA (2011, 2012, 2015)
  • 3× Second Team All-WNBA (2010, 2013, 2014)
  • 3× WNBA rebounding champion (2010–2012)

13. Candace Parker, Los Angeles

Maybe the toughest to seed on the list; you know she belongs, but how do you weigh two MVPs, but no championships was what we heard often in discussing this project. Tremendous talent that undoubtedly will move up on future lists.

  • 2× WNBA MVP (2008, 2013)
  • WNBA Rookie of the Year (2008)
  • WNBA All-Rookie Team (2008)
  • 4× All-WNBA First Team (2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)
  • 2× All-WNBA Second Team (2009, 2015)
  • 2×All-Defensive Second Team (2009, 2012)
  • 3× WNBA All-Star (2011, 2013, 2014)
  • WNBA All-Star MVP (2013)
  • 2× WNBA Rebounding Champion (2008, 2009)

12. Lindsay Whalen, Connecticut/Minnesota

Probably the second best point guard the league has seen, definitely number two in the "new generation" of score and distribute ball handlers. Has never been on a team that did not contend for a championship in the WNBA

  • 5× WNBA All-Star (2006, 2011, 2013–2015)
  • 3× First Team All-WNBA (2008, 2011, 2013)
  • 2× Second Team All-WNBA (2012, 2014)
  • 3× WNBA Peak Performer (Assists) (2008, 2011–2012)
  • 3× WNBA champion (2011, 2013, 2015)

11. Yolanda Griffith, Sacramento/Seattle

Played some of her best ball in the ABL before joining the WNBA, the ultimate work hard, set screens, and get out of my way post. Probably could have scored more if needed to. Her battles in the paint were things to behold.

  • WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Award (1999)
  • WNBA MVP (1999)
  • 8× WNBA All-Star (1999–2001, 2003–2007)
  • WNBA champion (2005)
  • WNBA Finals MVP (2005)
  • WNBA's All-Decade Team

10. Sue Bird, Seattle

The best point guard in the history of the WNBA, and redefined the position as an offensive threat as well as distributor. The combination of Bird and Lauren Jackson is the best one-two in the league's history. Still playing incredibly well, and if anything may be a better scorer than she was earlier in her career.

  • 2× WNBA champion (2004, 2010)
  • 4× All-WNBA First Team (2002–2005)
  • 3× All-WNBA Second Team (2008, 2010, 2011)
  • 9x WNBA All-Star (2002, 2003, 2005–2007, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015)
  • WNBA All-Decade Team

9. Tina Thompson, Houston/Los Angeles/Seattle

The leading scorer in WNBA history, and was the third option on the four time champion Houston Comets. Had rebounding and distributing skills overshadowed by her ability to score. Made the playoffs 11 teams in an amazing 17 year career.

  • 9× WNBA All-Star (1999–2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013)
  • 4× WNBA champion (1997–2000)
  • WNBA All-Star MVP (2000)
  • 3× All-WNBA First Team (1997, 1998, 2004)
  • 4× All-WNBA Second Team (1999–2002)

 8. Maya Moore, Minnesota

Read those stats and realize they were done in only five seasons! The youngest player on this list, another person redefining her position. She can handle the ball and finish from anywhere. Could end up at the very top of this list by the time she is done.

  • WNBA Most Valuable Player (2014)
  • 4× WNBA All-Star (2011, 2013–2015)
  • WNBA All-Star Game MVP (2015)
  • 3× All-WNBA First Team (2013–2015)
  • All-WNBA Second Team (2012)
  • 3× WNBA champion (2011, 2013, 2015)
  • WNBA Finals MVP (2013)
  • WNBA scoring leader (2014)
  • WNBA Rookie of the Year (2011)
  • WNBA All-Rookie Team (2011)

7. Tamika Catchings, Indiana

If this list only measured heart, effort, and will, Catchings would be number one. A special talent on both ends of the court, she has set the gold standard on giving back to the community off the court. She will be sorely missed when she retires at season's end.

  • WNBA champion (2012)
  • WNBA Finals MVP (2012)
  • WNBA Most Valuable Player (2011)
  • 10× WNBA All-Star (2002, 2003, 2005–2007, 2009, 2011, 2013–2015)
  • 7× First Team All-WNBA (2002, 2003, 2006, 2009–2012)
  • 5× Second Team All-WNBA (2004, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2015)
  • 5× WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012)
  • 7× WNBA steals leader (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013)
  • WNBA Rookie of the Year (2002)
  • 2× Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award (2010, 2013)

6. Katie Smith, Minnesota/Detroit/Washington/Seattle/New York

The most prolific scorer in WNBA/ABL history (combined), could launch that high arching jumper in a flash. After Detroit stole her in a trade, redefined herself as a point guard and better defender to help lead them to two championships.

  • 2× WNBA champion (2006, 2008)
  • WNBA Finals MVP (2008)
  • 2× All-WNBA First Team (2001, 2003)
  • 7× WNBA All-Star (2000–2003, 2005, 2006, 2009)
  • WNBA scoring champion (2001)
  • WNBA's All-Decade Team (2006)

5. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix

Probably the most intense competitor on the list; definitely the one most likely to get a technical foul! Has been the ultimate weapon as a combo guard in Phoenix, who has the ball in her hands and a green light to shoot or pass. Three-time champion, five-time scoring champion. The ultimate offensive weapon.

  • WNBA MVP (2009)
  • 9× All-WNBA First Team (2004, 2006–2011, 2013, 2014)
  • All-WNBA Second Team (2005)
  • 7×WNBA All-Star (2005–2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014)
  • WNBA Rookie of the Year (2004)
  • 3× WNBA champion (2007, 2009, 2014)
  • 5× WNBA scoring champion (2006, 2008–2011)
  • 2x WNBA Finals MVP (2009, 2014)

4. Sheryl Swoopes, Houston/Seattle

One of the originals, she could do it all; score, defend, distribute. Took a back seat when she needed to early on with the Comets, then took over and actually won both MVP and Defensive POY in the same year twice.

  • 6× WNBA All-Star (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006)
  • 4× WNBA champion (1997–2000)
  • 3× WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2002, 2003)
  • 3× WNBA MVP Award (2000, 2002, 2005)
  • 2× WNBA scoring champion (2000, 2005)

3. Lauren Jackson, Seattle

Players are not supposed to be able to do the things the Jackson did in terms of size, ability, and intensity. She would out power her opponents on one possession, then spot up for a three the next. It is so sad the way injuries took her career from her with so much more to do and accomplish

  • 7× WNBA All-Star (2001–2003, 2005–2007, 2009)
  • 3× WNBA MVP (2003, 2007, 2010)
  • 2× WNBA Champion (2004, 2010)
  • 3× WNBA scoring champion (2003, 2004, 2007)
  • WNBA Finals MVP (2010)
  • WNBA rebounding champion (2007)
  • WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Award (2007)
  • 5× All-WNBA First Team (2003–2007, 2009–2010)
  • All-WNBA Second Team (2008)
  • Best WNBA Player ESPY (2004, 2005, 2008)

2. Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles

Grace, beauty; there is a reason she was referred to as Smooth. As talented a center the league has seen, she constantly worked on her game, adding jump shots, bank shots, as she went on. She represented the league well when it started, and did the things it needed on and off the court. And then there's those gold medals!

  • 2× WNBA champion (2001, 2002)
  • 2× WNBA Finals MVP (2001, 2002)
  • 3× WNBA MVP (2001, 2004, 2006)
  • 8× WNBA All-Star (1999–2003, 2005, 2006, 2009)
  • 8× First Team All-WNBA (1997, 2000–2004, 2006, 2008)
  • 4× Second Team All-WNBA (1998, 1999, 2005, 2009)
  • 2× WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2004, 2008)
  • 2× All-Defensive First Team (2006, 2008)
  • 2× All-Defensive Second Team (2005, 2009

1. Cynthia Cooper, Houston

Since she first appeared on a DNS podcast we have referred to Coop as the G.O.A.T.  That continues here. Despite the shortness of her career due to her age, she burned SO bright in those years, she still is in our opinion the greatest player in the history of the WNBA. Only played five years, and one of those was an aborted comeback three years after retirement. Four of those years she was league champion and finals MVP, three-time scoring champion, and two time MVP. If you haven't seen her, do yourself and YouTube those old games. You won't be disappointed.

  • 2× WNBA MVP (1997, 1998)
  • 3× WNBA All-Star (1999, 2000, 2003)
  • 4× WNBA champion (1997–2000)
  • 4× WNBA Finals MVP (1997–2000)
  • 3× WNBA scoring champion (1997–1999)

 

That is our Top 20 for 20. The WNBA has produced wonderful memories for us all, and hopefully will continue to do so for our children and their children and their children. The play has evolved, the players are athletic, stronger and more skilled than ever before. College basketball continues to grow, and as a farm system for the pros you cannot do any better.

Happy birthday again WNBA! We salute your past and look forward to covering your present and future!