WNBA top scorers are: Buckets. Money. Nothing but net. For nearly 25 years, the WNBA has been home to some of the best basketball players in the world. We’re talking about current and future Hall of Famers.
According to Across the Timeline, back in 2006, the WNBA named an All-Decade Team to celebrate the league’s 10 “best and most influential players.” And the league has continued to do so every five years since, expanding the list by five each time. In 2011 they announced a Top 15 Players, in 2016 the Top 20@20, and if that trend continues, it will be time for a Top 25 in 2021 (by the way, check out who’s likely to be nominated this year here).
Amongst those elite hoopers are rarefied scorers. From Cynthia Cooper to Diana Taurasi to Liz Cambage, the best scorers in WNBA history come from all walks of life. They also come from all across the globe.
So today, we’ll breakdown the WNBA’s top scorers of all time and discuss why they’re so effective. Plus, we’ll take a look at the leading scorers in 2020. And finally, we’ll predict who will lead the WNBA in scoring in 2021 (sneak preview: one player has a career average of more than 20 points per game).
No doubt, the WNBA’s league leaders put on a show each year. And their goals are always clear: “I wanted to be the best at whatever I did.” shared Cynthia Cooper. So here we reveal which five players make the best of the best cut when it comes to all-time scoring.
Cynthia was known for raising the roof. She also set the bar as the Houston Comets won the first four WNBA Championships. Don’t forget that Cynthia was 34 years old when the WNBA tipped off in 1997. Nevertheless, she dominated the first three years of the WNBA, despite being past her prime playing years.
Cynthia led the league in scoring in 1997, 1998, and 1999, averaging more than 22 points per game during the WNBA’s first three years. She could drive and she could shoot it from deep. She could do it all. That’s probably a big reason why her WNBA career scoring average of 20.9 points per game is still the highest in league history.
Cynthia’s career spanned 1997-2000, with a brief return to action in 2003. Cynthia Cooper-Dyke is a well deserved member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Coop deserves her respect.
One of her best scoring moves was the rip through to one dribble pull-up. First, she used the rip through mis-direction to shake the defense. Then she secured space with a quick dribble. And finally, using her 5’10” height (on the taller side for a guard) she got the shot off over her head using her full arm extension. Here’s an example of her doing that play all the way back in college at USC:
Diana is arguably the GOAT. She’s undoubtedly the White Mamba. She’s one of those rare athletes, who has played her entire career, 16 seasons, with the same team, the Phoenix Mercury. Diana plays with swag, passion, and a documented mean streak. She’s a knockdown shooter, who is equally capable of breaking you down off the dribble.
At her peak, Diana scored a total of 860 points in 34 games in 2006, good for an average of 25.3 points per game. Don’t forget, WNBA games are only 40 minutes of regulation time, compared to 48 minutes in the NBA, which makes Diana’s scoring accomplishments even more impressive.
If that doesn’t prove she’s a walking bucket, we’re not sure what does. Oh yeah, she also dropped 47 points before in a WNBA game.
One of Diana’s best scoring moves is her classic step back three. This is a go-to because her three shooting percentage is high, and it’s more likely to keep her body physically well than a drive to the basket. Plus, it opens up the court for her teammates, by ensuring the defense always has to come out and play her past the three line because she’s a real threat. Basically, Diana typically comes off a screen, and reads the way the defender’s momentum is going. Then, Diana cuts the ball back in the opposite direction with a quick pivot, and steps back to fire. Check her out executing it seamlessly here:
Elena is a player that everyone would love to build a team around. She’s a 6’5″ forward with guard skills, and the size to match up with most centers in the W. Elena’s nickname could easily be the franchise, as she anchored the Washington Mystics to the 2019 WNBA Championship.
Elena Delle Donne scores in a myriad of ways. She’s a deadly three-point shooter, with a career average of 39% from deep. She also can finish from anywhere in the paint.
If that’s not enough, her career average of 20.3 points a game, lands her second on the all-time-points-per-game list, behind the aforementioned Cynthia Cooper. In fact, Cynthia and Elena are the only two players who averaged more than 20 points a game for their entire career in the WNBA.
One of her go-to scoring moves is a spin drive. When she gets the ball around the three line or the foul line, she’s likely to spin quickly. Then, weaves her way through the defense to finish with an overhead shot off the backboard. Notice how she she squares her shoulders up super quickly even coming off the spin, and she doesn’t shy away from the contact as she finishes. That’s one heck of a hard bucket to stop.
Maya deserves her flowers as an all-time great scorer in the WNBA and as a criminal justice reform advocate. She played her entire eight year career with Minnesota Lynx. Before pausing her career in 2018 to help Jonathan Irons overturn his prison sentence.
On the court, she helped lead the Lynx to four WNBA Championships in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. Her best individual season was in 2014, when she won the WNBA MVP Award and averaged 23.9 points per game. It was that performance that cemented Maya’s place as an all-time great scorer.
Maya Moore could have easily kept that torrid scoring pace up, but she has consistently sacrificed individual accolades to win team championships. However, her career 18.4 points per game average is still amongst the best in the league history. Oh yeah, she also dropped 48 points before in the WNBA game!
One of Maya’s most lethal scoring moves was a simple drive to underhand finish. She could execute it both with the left and right hands. In this particular instance, she notices the defender’s feet are not squared up, and instead are guiding her to the basket. So she lulls the defender to sleep by fake surveying the whole court. Then, dips her shoulder down and opens her hips to get the defender on her back and drives. Boom, bang, bucket! Doesn’t get better than that. Always take the easy bucket.
Lisa is one of the best players in WNBA history. At 6’5″, Lisa Leslie was a traditional center with non-traditional athleticism. Lisa is the only person in this section that was not a prolific three-point shooter, meaning Lisa earned her buckets inside and at the free throw line. Certainly, she got some put-backs through contact in the paint. But something that made her a unique scoring threat was her ability to dunk.
One could argue Lauren Jackson was a better scorer than Lisa because of slightly higher career average. Lauren averaged 18.9 points per game in her WNBA career, compared to Lisa’s average of 17.2 points per game.
However, there was a time when Lisa was feared on the basketball court and known for scoring in bunches, like when she scored 30 points in a half against the San Antonio Silver Stars on June 25, 2006. In fact, that was a monumental night as Leslie became the first WNBA player to surpass 5,000 career points on her way to her WNBA career high of 41 points.
One of Lisa’s go-to scoring moves was her foul line crossover pull-up, which put defenders on skates. Check it out below! Basically Lisa catches the ball in her left hand, and reads that the defense is hustling towards her. So she uses the defender’s momentum against her, and crosses over in the other direction. That leaves her wide open for a quick release shot. A simple play, beautifully executed.
Now that you’ve been introduced to the WNBA’s top scorers of all time throughout many seasons, you can also make your own team of top scorers. Up next, let’s dive into who’s made a lasting impression in a single game.
The WNBA scoring record for a single game is pretty high if you ask us. Here’s everything you need to know.
Liz scored the most points in a WNBA game when she dropped 53 points for the Dallas Wings against the New York Liberty on July 17, 2018. Which is really no surprise, as Liz, a 6’8″ Australian Olympic bronze medalist, is a force inside from down under.
The three-time WNBA All-Star actually broke her former Tulsa Shock teammate’s record of 51 points in a WNBA game. Liz Cambage is currently a free agent, most recently playing for the Las Vegas Aces in 2019, as she opted out of the Wubble in 2020.
On September 8, 2013, “The Microwave” dropped 51 points for the Tulsa Shock against the San Antonio Silver Stars (who later became the Las Vegas Aces) to become the first player in WNBA history to score more than 50 points in a game.
Riquna went on to win WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year in 2013 and was named a WNBA All-Star in 2015. She’s is currently a free agent, most recently playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.
Up next, we take a look at who’s scored the most total points in league history.
Diana Taurasi’s 8,931 points is currently the all-time record for total points in WNBA history. After entering the league as the number one pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft, Diana has been on a mission to get buckets.
Diana, a three-time WNBA Champion, is also a five-time WNBA scoring champion: in 2006 and then four consecutive seasons from 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. With every point Diana scores in 2021 and beyond, she will add to her all-time record.
Curious who has scored the second most points in WNBA history? Tina Thompson with 7,488 points.
Alysha Clark may not be the first player you think about but the numbers don’t lie. The Seattle Storm’s Alysha Clark is currently the best shooter in the WNBA. In 2019, she made 48% of her three points, connecting on 51 out 106 shots over 31 games.
In 2020, Alysha took her sweet shooting to another level. She amazingly made 52% of three pointers in the condensed 22 game Wubble season. Clark drained 35 of 67 shots from deep, cementing her place as arguably the 6th most desirable 2021 free agent in the WNBA.
Shooting and scoring tend to go together. Here’s a look at who made the biggest scoring impact in 2020.
Arike Ogunbowale led the WNBA with a scoring average of 22.8 points per game in the 2020 Wubble season. The W’s scoring wunderkind was also named to the 2020 All-WNBA First Team. After just two seasons in the league, Arike is on pace to become one of the greatest scorers in WNBA history.
However, as the Dallas Wings improve as a team, Arike’s scoring average could go down. As she’s asked to share the ball with her emerging teammates such as Satou Sabally, Marina Mabrey, and Ty Harris.
A’ja averaged 20.5 points per game. And was named the 2020 WNBA MVP and to the 2020 All-WNBA First Team. After leading the Aces to the WNBA Finals. Her scoring prowess can partially be traced to the fact that her teammate, Liz Cambage did not play last season for the Aces.
If Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum return to the Aces, A’ja could succumb to the same fate as Arike. She could be asked to take a step back offensively, so other teammates can have a greater impact.
DeWanna Bonner took the Wubble by storm in 2020. She averaged 19.7 points per game up from her career average of 14.7. Plus, she hit 42% of her field goal attempts. As a result, she was named to the 2020 All-WNBA Second Team.
However, DeWanna will likely have to share the ball more in 2021. As All-WNBA talent Jonquel Jones is expected to return, after opting out of playing in the WNBA in 2020.
Like DeWanna, Breanna also averaged 19.7 points per game in 2020. Breanna Stewart finished second in 2020 WNBA MVP voting. And was named to the 2020 All-WNBA First Team.
Breanna Stewart, a two-time WNBA champion, is the centerpiece of the Storm’s franchise and offense. Breanna could actually be asked to do more in 2021. As she will be another year removed from a torn Achilles tendon injury that she suffered in April 2019.
Diana Taurasi averaged 18.7 points per game in 2020. And she hit 40.9% of her field goals and 91.2% of her free throws. In many circles, she’s considered the GOAT for her scoring ability, longevity, and overall swag.
Diana most definitely has more basketball behind her than in front of her. However, that has not stopped her from scoring because shooters are gonna shoot. It is as simple as that.
So what’s in store for the year ahead? Here’s who we are expecting will be the WNBA’s top scorers.
Arike is the leading candidate to lead the WNBA scoring in 2021. In 2020, she averaged 22.8 points a game. There’s no reason she shouldn’t average at least 20 points in 2021.
Arike Ogunbowale may need to share the ball more with her teammates. However, as she enters her third season in the W, she should become a more efficient player. Meaning she should not need to take as many shots to score the same amount of points.
Conversely, the Dallas Wings could go all in on Arike. They could ask her to shoulder even more of the load offensively. In that case, she could easily average 25 points per game. It wouldn’t be surprising if Arike ends up having several games in 2021 where she’s feeling it, and drops 30, possibly 40+ points in a single game.
Chennedy Carter is the future franchise player the Atlanta Dream has been dreaming of. As Chennedy goes, so will go the Atlanta Dream.
In 16 games, Chennedy averaged 17.4 points. That’s an amazing rookie season, especially considering she missed six games due to injury. Chennedy has a stunning ability to get to the bucket, and the swag and confidence to go with it.
Chennedy Carter did not win rookie of the year, partially because she missed several games in the Wubble. That’s the type of fuel Chennedy could use to motivate her to average 20+ points per game in 2021.
Breanna is only 26 years old. That’s the number one reason why she could lead the WNBA in scoring in 2021.
In 2020, she averaged 19.7 points per game. And she has the accolades to ensure her confidence. She’s already won two WNBA Championships and boasts a career scoring average of 19.9 points per game.
With a little luck, Breanna Stewart will soon become the third player with a career average of more than 20 points per game in the WNBA – behind Cynthia Cooper and Elena Delle Donne. Breanna Stewart will continue to be the center of the Seattle Storm’s offense.
Elena opted out of the Wubble in 2020 and penned an open letter about her health. However, that does not mean she’s is not still capable of leading the WNBA in scoring in the upcoming 2021 season.
In 2019, Elena Delle Donne averaged 19.5 points per game, finishing second to Brittney Griner. Elena’s Mystics are still championship contenders, loaded with talent, and she is still their best player.
But she does have to make sure players such as Tina Charles, Emma Meesseman, and Myisha Hines-Allen all get enough opportunities to use the Mystics front-court depth to their advantage.
At 6’9″ Brittney Griner is the tallest active player in the WNBA. Brittney’s height advantage makes her a contender to lead the WNBA in scoring. So let’s go ahead and excuse Brittney’s 2020 season, where she only averaged 17.7 points in 12 games, before leaving the Wubble.
In 2019, Brittney led the WNBA in scoring, averaging 20.7 points per game. She’s capable of 20 points every night, especially with All-Star guards Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi feeding her the ball. However, Brittney’s production will always be tied to how committed her teammates are when it comes to getting her the ball in scoring position. If Brittney is the number option for the Mercury, she could easily be the leading scorer in the WNBA in 2021.
Now you know the players who’ve changed the league with their amazing scoring ability. From knocking down more than 50 points in a game, to holding career averages above 20 points per game, these women have delivered phenomenal performances.
Written by John W. Davis, a multimedia journalist and Olympic sports commentator living in Los Angeles.
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