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Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi crosses historic 10,000 career points in the WNBA

For more than a half-decade, Diana Taurasi has been the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer. Now, the Phoenix Mercury guard has pushed the mark to a milestone number.

Taurasi surpassed 10,000 career regular-season points on Thursday night at the Footprint Center in Phoenix on a 3-pointer in which the fans and her teammates erupted. Taurasi finished with a season-high 42 points as the Mercury beat the Atlanta Dream 91-71 to snap a four-game skid.

The Mercury celebrated the occasion with live goats in the arena for a petting zoo experience. Each fan in attendance also received a placard congratulating Taurasi on 10,000 points.

“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,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.

“I want the number to be as big as it can be, because when someone breaks it it’s going to be even bigger and even better,” Taurasi said in the Mercury’s “The Drive” feature in June. “The game of basketball is about scoring points, but I think if you can do it organically and in a way where it doesn’t take away from what the team is trying to do, I think those become the people who are the best scorers.”

Taurasi, 41, broke the league’s scoring record in June 2017 when she scored her 7,489th career point to surpass Tina Thompson. She passed the mark in Los Angeles near where she grew up in Chino, California. In June 2021, she reached 9,000 points during the league’s 25th anniversary season.

“She doesn’t cheat the process,” Mercury president Vince Kozar said in the franchise’s “The Drive” series. “She doesn’t cheat the game. She works really hard in the offseason, during the season. She plays really hard every single night. I’m sure there are nights that she’s tired. I’m sure that there are nights where we’ve had injuries and she’s not out there with the full complement of teammates. There have been nights where she has been banged up, but she just keeps showing up. And that’s all you can ask of someone because it’s just a great example for all of us.”

Only three other players in league history have scored at least 7,000 points, and none is active (Thompson, Tamika Catchings and Tina Charles). Three players in the top 25 are still playing. Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner, a former teammate of Taurasi, is eighth (6,680 points) and Las Vegas Aces forward Candace Parker is ninth (6,574 points). Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike is 17th (5,691).

Charles (fourth, 7,115) and Angel McCoughtry (16th, 5,797) have not retired, but neither has been rostered over the past calendar year.

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi scored 10,000 career regular season points in the WNBA. (Illustration by Stefan Milic/Yahoo Sports)

Diana Taurasi’s drive to 10,000

Taurasi entered the season with 9,693 points and scored at least 20 points five times this season. She’s averaging 14.8 points in 28.4 minutes per game. Her 50.6% shooting clip from 2-point range is among the highest of her career, but her 30.1% from 3-point range is a career low.

She’s battled injuries for much of the past four seasons and this year has been no different even though she’s been committed to longer pregame routines. Taurasi missed three games in June with a hamstring injury. She missed three games late last month with a quad contusion and left big toe injury as she came within 100 points of the mark. It pushed back the projected milestone moment.

Taurasi has averaged 538 points per season in her career and steadily climbed the milestone scoring marks. The Mercury chronicled her chase to 10,000 with “The Drive” video series. In “The Moments” episode on July 28, Taurasi was asked if she had special moments in her career she felt “just hit you different.”

“I wish there was one, but it’s really just a collection of memories,” Taruasi said. “And every time you think of one you’re like, ‘Oh, I forgot about that one.’ And then you forget about this one. And then, ‘Oh, what about that moment in Connecticut when we weren’t supposed to win a single-elimination game?’ And then those games are just as fun as when you’re, you know, the favorite to win.”

Many of those wins, both surprising and expected, came because of Taurasi’s late-game heroics. There was her iconic late-game shot in the 2018 semifinals against the Storm, which Seattle went on to win. She led the Mercury to a shocking upset against the favored Las Vegas Aces in 2021 and carried the team to the brink of a championship as the No. 6 seed. She scored a playoff career-high 37 points, two fewer than her age at the time, in that series.

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi scored 10,000 career regular season points in the WNBA. (Illustration by Stefan Milic/Yahoo Sports)

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi scored 10,000 career regular season points in the WNBA. (Illustration by Stefan Milic/Yahoo Sports)

Taurasi’s GOAT-level career

Taurasi was voted the GOAT — greatest of all time — in a fan vote during the league’s 25th anniversary season. Since the Mercury drafted her No. 1 out of Connecticut in 2004, she’s been a fan favorite and a sure future Hall of Famer when she retires.

In her 18 full seasons, she’s won three WNBA championships, was named 2004 Rookie of the Year and 2009 league MVP and earned 10 All-Star honors in a time before All-Star Games were held during Olympic years. She’s a 14-time All-WNBA honoree, including her first eight seasons, and all but four are first-team accolades. The years she wasn’t named to the team were when she missed most of the season due to injury (2012, 2019), in 2015 when she sat out the WNBA season and in 2021-22.

She was the first to start her career with three 20-plus-point games and averaged 17 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals in her Rookie of the Year campaign. In 2007, the Mercury defeated the Detroit Shock for their first championship. A year later, Taurasi became the fastest to score 3,000 points. She did it in 151 games.

“She’s obviously showed us the way,” Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell said at WNBA All-Star. “She’s a pillar of what the W kind of stands for. And from a guard standpoint, obviously she’s been one of the best to do it for a long time.”

The top two single-season point total records belong to Taurasi, who scored 860 points in 2006 and 820 in 2008. Maya Moore scored 812 in 2014 and is the only other player to score at least 800 in a season. The WNBA schedule has since expanded to 36 games. Taurasi is also 18th and 22nd on the list of the top-25 scorers.

Her best season was the MVP campaign in 2009 when she averaged 20.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. She shot 40.7% from 3-point range, a career high. The Mercury won their second title and Taurasi was named Finals MVP in the series against the Indiana Fever.

From 2008-11, Taurasi led the league in points per game. Her 25.29 points per game is also a record that Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd is in reach of breaking this season. Loyd averaged 25.7 points per game heading into the All Star break, but has been kept below her average in the couple of games since as defenses key in on her.

The third title came in 2014 and Taurasi was again named Finals MVP in the series win against the Chicago Sky.

“She’s done so much for this league, for the game, [and] I hope she holds on for a little bit longer,” New York Liberty point guard Courtney Vandersloot said at All-Star. “She’s one of those players that I can’t see the WNBA without Diana Taurasi in it. And 10,000 is obviously a major accomplishment. If anybody, I think we all agreed that it was gonna be Diana.”

Taurasi is on a two-year contract that runs through the 2024 season. She has said she intends to fulfill the contract and would like to play a sixth Olympic Games when it’s in Paris next summer. She has five Olympic gold medals.

Taurasi’s other record marks

Taurasi’s longevity in the WNBA has put her atop the record books in many categories. Her rookie season in 2004 was the league’s eighth season and she is part of the first group of players to have dreamed of the league in high school and gone on to play deep into a second decade.

Taurasi can already see the younger players coming in to crash offensive performances with “even bigger and even better” showings. There have been seven 40-point games so far this season, more than double the previous high of three in a season and it’s not even done. It has pushed many of Taurasi’s numbers down the list of all-time individual scoring performances.

She remains tied for fourth with 47 points in a triple-overtime win against the Houston Comets in 2006. She also ranks ninth (44 points), tied for 18th (41 points) and tied for 30th (39 points).

She is first in field goals, 3-pointers and free throws (as well as attempts in each). Her 2,235 assists rank fifth all-time and her 2,033 rebounds rank 25th. She ranks 20th in each of steals and blocks, and first in turnovers. And in something she has become quite known for, she ranks first in total personal fouls (1,621). In 2008, she averaged 3.7 a game.

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