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The W25 List: The WNBA Unveils the Top 25 Players in History & GOAT

ByQueen Ballers Club|@queenballers| October 16, 2021
the-w25-list-and-goat

“You never play this game because of the accomplishments or the recognition. You play because you love it. And I think when you respect the game you work hard. So sometimes things happen organically.” said four-time WNBA All- Star and WNBA Champion, Ticha Penicheiro, after being named to the W25 list in 2021.

The WNBA commemorated its landmark 25th season by announcing the selection of “The W25,” a collection of the 25 greatest and most influential players in WNBA history. The game-changing athletes named to the exclusive list were selected based on their overall contribution to the league and community by a panel of select media and women’s basketball pioneers.

“These athletes have played the game at the highest level on the court – they are scorers and rebounders, assist makers and defensive stoppers, leaders and mentors. In the community, they have powerful voices, individually and collectively, speaking out on important issues in our society.” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

“Together, they have transformed the way the game is played, changed the way athletes are viewed, become incredible role models, and inspired generations of young, diverse athletes.” she continued.

How were The W25 selected?

The selection of “The W25” began with a list of 72 nominees chosen based on factors such as on-court performance and ability, leadership, sportsmanship and community service, and contributions to team success. A select panel of media members and women’s basketball pioneers and advocates then cast the votes that determined “The W25.” 

The nominees were required to have been a member of a WNBA team for at least two seasons and met four of the following seven criteria: won a major individual award; selected to either the All-WNBA First Team or All-WNBA Second Team; selected to either the WNBA All-Defensive First Team or WNBA All-Defensive Second Team; selected to the WNBA All-Star Game; a member of a WNBA Championship team; currently ranked among the top 40 career leaders in at least one major statistical category; and/or a recipient of the WNBA’s season-long Community Assist Award.

Top 25 WNBA Players of All Time List

Without further ado, here are the players who earned the exclusive honor. The W25 includes 10 current players: Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Elena Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner, Angel McCoughtry, Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Breanna Stewart, and Diana Taurasi. Fifteen retired players are also among the honorees: Seimone Augustus, Swin Cash, Tamika Catchings, Cynthia Cooper, Yolanda Griffith, Becky Hammon, Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie, Maya Moore, Ticha Penicheiro, Cappie Pondexter, Katie Smith, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, and Lindsay Whalen.

“It’s a huge honor to be named among the top 25 players in league history and I’m in awe that I’m a part of such a prestigious list,” said Sue Bird. “It’s been incredible to experience the rise in the level of competition in the past 25 years and I’m excited to see what the future holds for this league.”

“I’m extremely honored to be included in such an amazing group of 25 trailblazers,” added Tamika Catchings, “and I’m thankful to have had an opportunity to be a part of the growth and strength of our league from both sides – as a player and as an executive. The momentum continues to grow because of those players who came before us and the players of today who continue to push this league to greater heights, paving the road for future generations.”

Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane with a look at each player’s incredible accomplishments.

1. Seimone Augustus

Minnesota Lynx (2006-19), Los Angeles Sparks (2020)

A four-time champion with the Lynx, Seimone was an eight-time All-Star selection,
five-time All-WNBA pick, Finals MVP and WNBA Rookie of the Year. She scored
6,005 points (15.4 ppg) over 391 regular-season games. She is currently an assistant
coach with the Sparks.

2. Sue Bird*

Seattle Storm (2002-present)

The WNBA’s career leader in assists and games played also holds the record for most
All-Star Game selections (12). A four-time champion with the Storm, Sue Bird is an
eight-time All-WNBA pick and three-time Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner.

3. Swin Cash

Detroit Shock (2002-07), Seattle Storm (2008-11), Chicago Sky (2012-13), Atlanta Dream (2014), New York Liberty (2014-16)

The three-time champion (twice with the Shock and once with the Storm) was a four-time
All-Star and two-time All-WNBA pick. Swin also was an All-Defensive choice and Kim
Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner.

4. Tamika Catchings

Indiana Fever (2002-16)

A five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, Tamika was also a 12-time All-
WNBA selection, 12-time All-Defensive pick and 10-time All-Star. The 2011 MVP won a title and Finals MVP award, was a Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner, and was
part of the 2020 Naismith Hall of Fame Induction Class. Tamika is currently the Vice
President of Basketball Operations/General Manager of the Indiana Fever.

5. Tina Charles*

Connecticut Sun (2010-13), New York Liberty (2014-19), Washington Mystics (Current)

The 2010 No. 1 overall pick and Rookie of the Year was the 2012 WNBA MVP. She is
an eight-time All-WNBA selection, eight-time All-Star and four-time All-Defensive pick.
She led the league in rebounding four times and in scoring once.

6. Cynthia Cooper

Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2003)

A four-time champion with the Comets, Cynthia earned four Finals MVP honors and was
a two-time regular-season MVP. She led the league in scoring in three different seasons
and was a three-time All-Star. Cynthia averaged 21.0 points and 4.9 assists for her career.

7. Elena Delle Donne*

Chicago Sky (2013-2016), Washington Mystics (2017-Current)

The only player to be named WNBA MVP with two different teams (Chicago, 2015;
Washington, 2019). Elena Delle Donne is a five-time All-WNBA pick and six-time All-Star.
She won a championship with Washington in 2019, led the league in scoring in 2015,
and is the only player in WNBA history to achieve a 50-40-90 season, shooting 50% from
the field, 40% from three-point and a 90% free throw percentage during the 2019 season..

8. Sylvia Fowles*

Chicago Sky (2008-14), Minnesota Lynx (2015-present)

The league’s career leader in total rebounds and defensive boards, Sylvia has won two
championships and two Finals MVPs with the Lynx. She is a three-time WNBA
Defensive Player of the Year, six-time All-WNBA choice, seven-time All-Star, nine-time
All-Defensive pick and MVP in 2017.

9. Yolanda Griffith

Sacramento Monarchs (1999-2007), Seattle Storm (2008), Indiana Fever (2009)

A former league MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Griffith won a
championship with the Monarchs. She also was a five-time All-WNBA pick, seven-time
All-Star and two-time All-Defensive choice.

10. Brittney Griner*

Phoenix Mercury (2013-present)

A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Brittney Griner led the league in blocks each year from 2013-19. The league’s career dunks leader is a two-time scoring champ, five-time All-WNBA choice, seven-time All-Star, six-time All-Defensive Team pick, and won a WNBA championship in 2014.

11. Becky Hammon

New York Liberty (1999-2006), San Antonio Stars (2007-2014)

After entering the WNBA as an undrafted free agent, Becky Hammon became a six-time WNBA All-Star and four-time All-WNBA selection in 16 seasons. She led the league in assists once and won the WNBA’s Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award. In 2014, the San Antonio Spurs made Hammon the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach.

12. Lauren Jackson

Seattle Storm (2001-12)

One of only three players to earn MVP honors three times, Jackson won two
championships with the Storm. She was a Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, eight-time All-WNBA selection, five-time All-Defensive Team pick and seven-time All-
Star. Lauren Jackson led the league in scoring three times and in rebounding once.

13. Lisa Leslie

Los Angeles Sparks (1997-2006, 2008-09)

Lisa Leslie was a three-time WNBA MVP, two-time Finals MVP and two-time Defensive
Player of the Year. She led the league in rebounding three times and her 12 All-WNBA
selections are tied for second most. She won two championships with the Sparks.

14. Angel McCoughtry*

Atlanta Dream (2009-2016, 2018-19), Las Vegas Aces (2020-present)

The No. 1 pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft and the 2009 WNBA Rookie of the Year,
Angel McCoughtry is a two-time league scoring leader and steals leader. She also is a six-time All-WNBA pick, five-time All-Star and seven-time All-Defensive selection.

15. Maya Moore

Minnesota Lynx (2011-18)

Maya Moore is a four-time champion and seven-time All-WNBA selection after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft and 2011 Rookie of the Year. The 2014 MVP and league scoring leader, as well as the 2013 Finals MVP, Maya was a six-time All-Star
and a two-time All-Defensive team pick.

16. Nneka Ogwumike*

Los Angeles Sparks (2012-present)

The 2016 WNBA MVP is a five-time All-WNBA and All-Defensive team selection and
won a championship with the Sparks in 2016. She also won the Kim Perrot
Sportsmanship Award the last two seasons and the 2018 WNBA season-long WNBA
Community Assist Award. Nneka Ogwumike was also Rookie of the Year in 2012 and currently serves as the President of the WNBPA.

17. Candace Parker*

Los Angeles Sparks (2008-20), Chicago Sky (Current)

Candace Parker began her career by winning Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in 2008. She is a two-time MVP, the 2016 Finals MVP with the champion Sparks, a nine-time All-WNBA pick, six-time All-Star and three-time league rebounding leader. She is the
reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

Lisa Leslie said of Candace bringing a title to Chicago in her first year playing there: “I think it’s historic really. To most statistically, if you look at it, it’s very difficult to join a new team and win a championship in that year. It almost never happens on NBA or WNBA side. So it would be amazing for her to be able to do that.”

“But I think it also speaks to her leadership, her understanding of what it takes to win. Candace probably has not played the best in her career this year, but she’s been the best leader I think that she’s ever been. Her ability to communicate and to lead and lead by example and to be able to be open and to teach her teammates, her young teammates with Kahleah Copper, who’s had an outstanding season, I think Candace has been in a role that’s been awesome for her.”

“She’s come in in a very unselfish way, lent out so much information, and she made everybody around her better. That’s the sign of a great player.” Lisa explained.

18. Ticha Penicheiro

Sacramento Monarchs (1998-2009), Los Angeles Sparks (2010-11), Chicago Sky (2012)

Ticha Penicheiro ranks second in WNBA history in total assists, leading the league in the category in seven seasons. She earned one title with the Monarchs, was a four-time All- Star and three-time All-WNBA pick. Ticha logged 2,599 career assists (5.7 apg).

19. Cappie Pondexter

Phoenix Mercury (2006-09), New York Liberty (2010-14), Chicago Sky (2015-17), Los Angeles/Indiana (2018)

Cappie Pondexter won two championships and a Finals MVP honor in her first four seasons in the league with Phoenix. A four-time All-WNBA selection and seven-time All-Star, Cappie’s 6,811 career points rank fifth in league history.

20. Katie Smith

Minnesota Lynx (1999-2005), Detroit Shock (2005-2009), Washington Mystics (2010), Seattle Storm (2011-12), New York Liberty (2013)

Katie Smith won two championships and a Finals MVP award with the Shock. She ranks eighth in league history with 6,452 points. The four-time All-WNBA pick and seven-time All-Star earned All-Defensive honors once and led the league in scoring in one season. Katie is currently an assistant coach with the Lynx.

21. Breanna Stewart*

Seattle Storm (2016-present)

In four full seasons in the league, Breanna Stewart has earned two championships, two Finals MVPs and a regular-season MVP award. A former WNBA Rookie of the Year, she has been voted to the All-WNBA Team three times and All-Defensive Team twice. She also
was MVP of the inaugural WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game in 2021.

22. Sheryl Swoopes

Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2002-2007), Seattle Storm (2008), Tulsa Shock (2011)

Sheryl Swoopes is the only player in WNBA history to be the regular-season MVP three times and Defensive Player of the Year three times. Cheryl, who won four titles with the
Comets, was a two-time scoring leader, seven-time All-WNBA pick and six-time All-Star.

23. Diana Taurasi*

Phoenix Mercury (2004-2014, 2016-Current)

The WNBA’s career leader in points in the regular season and postseason, Diana Taurasi’s 14 All-WNBA selections are the most in league history and her 10 All-Star selections are tied for second. A five-time scoring champ and one-time assists leader, she has won three championships, one MVP award and two Finals MVPs.

24. Tina Thompson

Houston Comets (1997-2008), Los Angeles Sparks (2009-11), Seattle Storm (2012-13)

Tina Thompson’s 7,488 career points rank second in WNBA history. A four-time champion
with the Comets, she was an eight-time All-WNBA pick and was selected to participate in
nine All-Star Games. Tina is currently the head coach of the women’s basketball
team at the University of Virginia.

25. Lindsay Whalen

Connecticut Sun (2004-09), Minnesota Lynx (2010-18)

Lindsay Whalen, who won four championships with the Lynx, ranks third in league history with 2,348 assists. A five-time All-WNBA pick and five-time All-Star, she was the league’s
season assists leader three times. Lindsay is currently the head coach of the women’s
basketball team at the University of Minnesota.

*Active WNBA player

The W25 Fun Facts

  • Hey now, they’re all-stars: A total of 167 All-Star selections – an average of 6.7 per player – were earned by the 25 members of The W25, each of whom was selected to at least three All-Star Games.
  • They’re champions: Twenty-two members of The W25 won a total of 53 WNBA championships (an average of 2.12 per player).
  • They’re MVPs: Fourteen of “The W25” have combined to win 23 of the 24 regular-season WNBA MVP awards (Catchings, 2011; Charles, 2012; Cooper, 1997 and 1998; Delle Donne, 2015 and 2019; Fowles, 2017; Griffith, 1999; Jackson, 2003, 2007 and 2010; Leslie, 2001, 2004 and 2006; Moore, 2014; Ogwumike, 2016; Parker, 2008 and 2013; Stewart, 2018; Swoopes, 2000, 2002 and 2005; Taurasi, 2009)
  • They’ve won at all the highest levels: Ten have won a WNBA championship, an NCAA title and an Olympic gold medal (Bird, Cash, Catchings, Cooper, Griner, Moore, Parker, Stewart, Swoopes and Taurasi)
  • They can play defense, in addition to scoring: Eight combined to win 18 of 24 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards (Catchings, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012; Fowles in 2011, 2013, and 2016; Griffith in, 1999; Griner in 2014 and 2015; Jackson in 2007; Leslie in 2004 and 2008; Parker in 2020; and Swoopes, in 2000, 2002 and 2003

The W25 List ceremony

The unveiling of “The W25”took place on ABC during halftime of the October 10, 2021 WNBA Finals Game 1 between the Las Vegas Aces and the Chicago Sky. Each player was gifted a jacket in an on-the-court ceremony. You can even watch the ceremony here if you missed it live:

The W25 award jackets

The league teamed up with Emma Mckee (aka Stitch Gawd) to create 25 completely custom varsity jackets. What’s cool about the jackets is that they look uniform and great on everybody, but they’re totally different for each player.

“The WNBA is something really special. I feel very humbled to have been asked to [make these jackets] honestly. You know my whole thing is I make jackets for Champions. And I get the opportunity with this to make 25 for some of the greatest athletes of all time.” said designer Emma.

“As far as all the leagues go, I find the WNBA and their ability to be able to talk about pertinent issues and support the personal beliefs of the players, I think that’s really important and really, really special.” she elaborated.

The WNBA came to Emma with a lot of inspiration for the gift. They wanted to make the W25 feel special; they wanted to highlight their achievements; they wanted to make some “armor for the soul.”

And the result clearly hit the mark. The base of the jacket is a classic wool varsity because they’re the staple of athletic outerwear. Then a white band and an orange band was added by the shoulder, before the sleeves.

Each jacket features the athlete’s name on the front, the WNBA logo patch on the right side and a basketball on the left. Plus, they each also have a bunch of custom patches such as their teams and awards. For example, Tina Thompson’s jacket has a lipstick patch, because of an iconic moment from early in her career. In college, she was a very busy student, and she walked onto the court wearing lipstick, not even thinking about it, and played an excellent game. So she wore MAC Diva lipstick on the court for every game after that – which is now perfectly preserved in her jacket. Also each jacket has a hand-sewn interior tag with the athlete’s accomplishments on it, and an interior tag with the athlete’s signature on it.

“The jacket, obviously it’s real. But it’s also symbolic because it’s just shown me the journey up until this point. But most especially, I see my jacket next to Ticha’s and next to Sue’s, you know. I think it especially hit home with a lot of what I experienced this summer with my injury, and just trying to get back on my two feet. So for [Cathy] to call and to tell me that I made that, it kind of went back to 2016 when they had the 20. It was a season that was really special. So for me to tap into that memory, it brought a lot of gratitude and joy to my heart.” said Nneka Ogwumike.

The W25 players' jackets

“Working on things for people like this just makes you want to be better. And it makes you want to grow and learn, and do your craft better, and really show out for them.” reflected Emma.

WNBA Goat Vote Results

As part of The W25 campaign, a league GOAT was selected, too. Fans voted Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi as the league’s greatest of all time (GOAT) in 2021. Fans were able to cast their vote for any member of “The W25,” from Sept. 5-19, 2021 on the WNBA website, app, and Twitter.

Diana was announced as the greatest player in WNBA history prior to Game 1 of the WNBA Finals 2021 presented by YouTube TV at Footprint Center in Phoenix.

“Congratulations to Diana Taurasi on being voted as the Greatest WNBA player of all time by the fans who have followed her illustrious career and saw her rise above the rest,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.  

“This well-deserved recognition reflects her sustained excellence on the court and her leading role in advancing the WNBA and women’s basketball and being a role model for young athletes everywhere. The opportunity to honor Dee is yet another special moment in celebration of our historic 25th season.” Cathy continued.

Diana is a leader among leaders. She is the league’s career leader in points, field goals made, and three-point field goals made in both the regular season and the playoffs. Her 14 All-WNBA Team selections are the most in league history, and her 10 WNBA All-Star selections are tied for second place.

After being picked No. 1 by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2004 WNBA Draft, the point guard has played for Phoenix her entire 17-year WNBA career. Diana has won three WNBA championships and one regular-season WNBA MVP award. She’s also led the league in scoring five times and in assists once.

For being named the GOAT, Diana received a one-of-a-kind commemorative trophy, a basketball made of resin and marble, detailed with white mamba scales and inscriptions that recognize her accomplishments.

The W25’s perspective on the future of the league

Nneka Ogwumike, when provided the chance, reflected on the 2021 season, “I think this season — it’s funny. I was having this conversation with a few of the league staffers. The season was long. It was long, but in a good way. I think there was a lot going on.”

“Of course, it started with us trying to figure out what the season would look like coming off of a bubble, and then of course a very active free agency season, and that leading up until just training camp and games. We had our first ever Commissioner’s Cup, which was awesome. The Olympics happened.”

“Now we’re in The Finals, and I just think that right now we’re at a point — we’re kind of like on the cusp of really revving things up when it comes to league investment. I think Cathy is doing a great job of stirring that pot and really trying to get results because I know Cathy’s all about, obviously, results and getting things done, but through the process, I think she’s also — I know I’ve been able to develop a really great relationship with her and of course with Terri and the executive director and the executive committee. It’s just been great.”

“I think I look forward to mostly — I will say this. One thing that I think was really successful was the safety of our season in a pandemic. I think that was something we can be very proud of. It was certainly a journey, and it was all hands on deck, whether it was players, coaches, organizations, the league, everything.”

“So, I know we’re probably — not even probably, we have no choice but to maintain that moving forward. I really look forward to continuing the conversation around traveling for the players, and not just the players, but the teams. That all plays into safety.”

“Ultimately too with this new CBA, we’re going to see more games in the season, so I look forward as well to having healthy players on healthy teams because we say it every year, but we’re still in this season. It’s just tough playing games with a handful of players. I know the league wants us to be able to be healthy, and the teams certainly do so that we can play the best basketball that we can.”

This season also delivered an elite level of competition. Breanna Stewart reflected, “I think that everyone has really realized this, maybe more so this year than any other year, is just how hard it is to play in this league and how many good teams that we have in this league. Like all 12 teams are capable of competing night in and night out.”

“For us to have a five versus six seed finals for the first time ever, I believe, just shows the versatility of the league, and I think that it’s great for the WNBA. It’s great for women’s basketball.”

“Really credit to Chicago and Phoenix for getting through single eliminations and then the semifinals and not having much rest and still being here and proving that they are contending for a championship.”

When all the legends are together, in addition to celebrating the history of the league, there has to be talk of what the future could hold. The perspective from the athletes was illuminating.

Here’s what Swin Cash said about what she’d like to see more of in the future of the league:

“The sponsors that are out there, the commitment to this league and understanding the value of the women. I think those dollars need to start coming in more frequently. Tickets, people buying tickets, wanting to come to the game, wanting to stream the game, wanting to support I think is something that needs to be there.

And I think the final thing for me is to bring back a lot of the legends that this league was built on. I think my challenge to all of the teams that are out there is to get more of the legends of our league that have been around to start pouring into the younger players. That’s how we grow the game. That’s how we share the knowledge, the institutional knowledge, about what the WNBA, women’s basketball is truly about.”

Nneka also pointed out there’s an opportunity in the future for players to go on to impact many sports leagues in a number of different ways, as coaches, but also in many other roles, too.

“As we continue to grow and as the NBA is established, it’s not only basketball leagues that are experiencing women being involved on both sides. It’s not limited to coaching either. I think what’s important is that, if the opportunity is available, players feel they may be pigeonholed into coaching, not saying that coaching is a bad thing, but sometimes they don’t know what to do and then they fall into it. We want to make sure that the best people are in the best positions.”

“So as these opportunities arise, you have coaching, you have analytics, you have GMs, you have presidents, you have referees, and it’s important for these players to understand that these opportunities are available and that you have coaches like Katie [Smith] who can show them the way and help them figure out exactly where their path can find them as they figure out what they want to do post basketball.”

“I think it’s fantastic that it’s happening in all leagues. And I think something that’s important too is that when these positions open up, especially in coaching, on men’s leagues [the NBA] for women, we’re learning a lot, but I think it’s also imperative for people to understand that they can learn a lot from us as well.”

No doubt players for generations will continue to learn from The W25 and their colleagues.

Up next, learn more from legend Lisa Leslie on Dawn Staley’s NETLIFE podcast.

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