August 5, 2023 

Diana Taurasi’s competitiveness keeps her going as she passes 10,000 career points

'Every morning I wake up wanting to play basketball'

Early in the third quarter of the Phoenix Mercury’s game against the Atlanta Dream on August 3, Diana Taurasi received a pass on the right wing from point guard Moriah Jefferson. With a hand in her face, Taurasi drained a deep 3-point shot to become the first WNBA player to reach 10,000 career points. The Footprint Center crowd went crazy and she was mobbed by her teammates.

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The shot was part of a magical 42-point performance from Taurasi where she became the only player in league history to have a 40-point performance at 40 years old or older. The 41-year-old’s 42 points were the most she has had in regulation in her career and helped Phoenix to a 91-71 win.

With more than 10,000 career points, three WNBA championships, 10 All-Star appearances, one MVP award and five Olympic gold medals, one may wonder why Taurasi is still playing basketball. The reason many, including Taurasi herself, have pointed to is her competitiveness.

“When you get to this age, you probably think about retirement every 10 minutes,” Taurasi said after the game on Aug. 3. “Every time I get to the weight room at 8 a.m. Every time I get on the training table for a massage. After this game, I have to go lift. All these things — you think about it but every morning I wake up wanting to play basketball, wanting to compete, wanting to get this team back on track to win the championship. All those things are still inside me revving up this uncomfortable, little brat that wants to keep playing basketball.”

Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon, who played against Taurasi, echoed the league’s all-time leading scorer. “She’s a competitor,” Hammon said. “She loves competing. There’s nothing like competing at a high level. Playing in big games. Stuff like that. You can’t compare it. When you’re reaching the age of retirement, it starts to hit you like oh my gosh, I’m never going to hit a big shot again. I’m never going to play in a big game. My biggest game will be at a YMCA pickup game. Like that’s a stark, steep drop off there.”

Women’s basketball pioneer and current Mercury broadcaster Ann Meyers Drysdale believes Taurasi’s passion and love for the game keeps her going. “There’s no question she loves the game but she’s a winner,” Meyers Drysdale said. “She wants to win and she’s competitive. She pays attention to details. She knows how to take care of her body. And she just enjoys being out there and as a fan, I enjoy watching her.”

While competitiveness and her love of the game keep her going, Taurasi could not have reached 10,000 career points without the help of others. She thanked friends and family for helping her and said the milestone could not have been reached without her parents.

Taurasi also talked about her coaches and the role they have played in her career. She has played for notable coaches including Geno Auriemma at UConn as well as Paul Westhead and Sandy Brondello in Phoenix. Taurasi expressed how lucky she has been to play for coaches who did not sugarcoat things. She talked about how it was never “good job” but rather “do better, do more, work harder.”

Taurasi also could not have scored 10,000 career points without the help of her teammates. “Nothing changed from the practice to the game,” current Connecticut Sun forward and longtime Mercury player DeWanna Bonner said. “It’s that intense and then she’s going to make sure that all her teammates are at that level. So I feel like to be that great, you have to bring people along with you. And that’s what she did every single day.”

Mercury president Vince Kozar, who has been with the Mercury and Phoenix Suns organization in various roles since 2006, noted how little has changed about her over the course of her career.

“When I started here, I was a young [public relations] person,” Kozar said. “I was taking her to and from interviews that we had set up and we would walk into a room and it didn’t matter where — she would shake everyone’s hand. She would say ‘how are you? Good to see you.’ She has this way of making people feel like she knows exactly who they are. And she remembers exactly who they are. … So those were my initial impressions, that she was one of the most authentic people that I had ever met and that nothing about that has changed in the last 17 years.”

As for passing the 10,000-point threshold, Taurasi stayed humble leading up to the moment. She noted she hopes somebody else can break her record and that she was not really thinking about the number. However, after she hit the mark on Thursday night, she finally reflected on the milestone.

“It was a cool night,” Taurasi said. “You couldn’t have wrote this any better. For our fans and for our city. And I didn’t feel great going into the game. We just had two tough games on the road. We’re not having the season that we want but hopefully moments like this can turn around [the] team and our morale.”

Written by Jesse Morrison

Jesse Morrison covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. A native of Roanoke, Va., Jesse moved to Arizona in 2017 to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, graduating in 2021 with a degree in sports journalism. Outside of The Next, Jesse works for Arizona Sports, co-hosting an Arizona State podcast, producing a radio show and writing for their website.

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