The GOAT

“…we should applaud her for being the best, apologize for not seeing it sooner, and beg her to stick around.”

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On June 18th of this year a new GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) was declared, quite loudly, throughout the sports world. Diana Taurasi hit a lay-up in the final minute of the first half against the Los Angeles Sparks that propelled her past Tina Thompson to take the title of WNBA all-time leading scorer with 7,489 points. The game stopped and congratulations were heard all around. Other sports greats such as Mia Hamm, Kerry Walsh Jennings, Kobe Bryant, Abby Wombach, and LeBron James cheered her on twitter. Heck, Kobe was even at the game. But every single one of their reactions was the same. And every tweet held the same phrase – #GOAT.

And that is really great. Everyone came together and recognized that Taurasi is the greatest of all time. She has hit more points in her career than any other player in WNBA history. And there is a chance that she will be the best woman we ever see touch a basketball. She is the GOAT…and she was even before the ball was tipped off last Sunday afternoon.

Yes, Taurasi staking her claim as the all-time leading scorer solidified her stature as the best there has ever been in the WNBA. I would love to see someone argue that she isn’t now – honestly, it would be laughable. But what else is laughable is that she is just now being recognized as the GOAT. Did everyone miss the past 17 years of her career?

In case you did, here is a short list of her accomplishments:

 

  • 3x WNBA Champion
  • WNBA Most Valuable Player
  • 2x WNBA Finals MVP
  • 4x Olympic Gold Medalist
  • Holder of 5 WNBA Scoring Titles
  • WNBA Rookie of the Year
  • 7x WNBA All-Star
  • WNBA Record Holder for Most 3-Pointers Made
  • 4x USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year
  • 6x Euroleague Champion
  • 7x Russian National League Champion
  • 3x NCAA Champion

 

…I could go back to her high school career too, but I think we all get the point. Even without the all-time scoring title it is impossible to compete with that résumé. She was already the GOAT when she stepped on the court last Sunday, before she hit that lay-up, and before the world finally acknowledged her for the true champion that she is. And it kind of hurts my heart a little.

Because as a girl who grew up playing basketball, Diana Taurasi was a staple. When I was in high school she was one of the few female players that would make the highlight reel. She was one of the few that you could talk about and other people would know. And she was the one that always came out with that win. She had a legacy for greatness, and for any girl that has ever touched a basketball and felt their chest pound a little harder, she was the person we looked up to. She was the one that we admired.

So it stinks that it took this scoring title for the rest of the world to admire her too. It also stinks that there are a vast number of little basketball-loving girls who weren’t able to see it happen live. I know it made me mad. I went to turn on NBA TV (who was airing the game) and I got the message that this program wasn’t being shown in my geographical area. Seriously? It’s not like they were showing anything else on the channel – it was just a sign stating that I couldn’t watch the GOAT accomplish one of the biggest moments of her career.

Do you think that if someone in the NBA came close to surpassing Kareem that I would have the same troubles? Ponder that one for a bit…

…Because whether you watched it or not (or whether you could or not), Diana Taurasi made history on Sunday. And she did it quietly. Her celebration was tame. Her attitude was composed. She was every bit the humble hero that we all wanted her to be.

And she has always been that player – lethal on the court, but the perfect role model in almost every situation. With the exception of a DUI in 2009, a failed Turkish doping allegation, and the sort-of scandal of her sitting out the 2015 WNBA season by request of her Russian Team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, Diana Taurasi has been a WNBA model citizen. And her slight pitfalls are hardly wide known. Let’s face it, how many people out there actually knew these things about Taurasi before they read this post? Yeah, me neither.

She has been a quiet legend. And for that I salute her. And for that I also challenge her. I know that she could phone it in for the rest of her career and no one would call her on it. She could retire and go live the nice quiet life that she deserves with her wife and former teammate, Penny Taylor. She could fade to the back and wait out the days until someone threatens her title (I don’t see it happening anytime soon though). But I challenge her not to do so. To not be quiet, and to not relax, and to not walk away from basketball or women’s professional sports.

She can coach, be an analyst, be an owner, heck be a mentor for all I care, but I beg her to please just be there. Don’t leave. Because her voice is law at this point – that’s what being the GOAT gives her. She can give her opinion and everyone immediately shuts-up and listens. She can advocate for women’s sports and the world will believe in her cause. Because she is the greatest. She has never led us astray before. Why would she now?

And that is the point. Even when she steps away from the court and she takes off that jersey for the last time, we basketball lovers are still going to want her to lead us. We are going to want to follow her. And yes, it is mighty selfish of us. And no, we may not get our wish. But what if we could?

What if Diana Taurasi got loud and stuck around and didn’t let women’s sports take all the crap they are given? What if she kept pushing, even after that final whistle? What kind of changes would we see for women and young girls?

Maybe if she does stick around and we keep waiting to see what she does next there may be a possibility that the next time a woman gets close to achieving the WNBA all-time scoring title anyone would be able to watch it live.

Maybe that is too wishful of thinking though.

But regardless of if she sticks around or takes the much-deserved quiet life that she has earned for herself after retirement, she will always be the GOAT – the gold standard that everyone will aspire to be. So we should applaud her for being the best, apologize for not seeing it sooner, and beg her to stick around. Because she is a force – always has been and always will be.