In 20th Season, WNBA Honors 20 Greatest and Most Influential Players in League History
In celebration of the WNBA’s landmark 20th season, the league today unveiled the 20 greatest and most influential players in its history. The announcement of the WNBA Top 20@20 presented by Verizon was made on ESPN’s SportsCenter: Face-to-Face with Hannah Storm.
The announcement was made today to honor the date of the league’s inaugural regular-season game played on June 21, 1997, when the New York Liberty defeated the Los Angeles Sparks, 67-57, at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Ca.
Storm point guard Sue Bird, now in her 15th WNBA season, was honored as one of the 20 players. Six former Seattle players, including Lauren Jackson and Swin Cash, were selected as well.
“The 20 women honored today are an extraordinarily accomplished group both on and off the basketball court,” said WNBA President Lisa Borders. “On the court, they represent the absolute best in women’s professional basketball and are in so many ways larger than life. Off the court, they represent their teams, hometowns and communities in which they live and work with the utmost professionalism. And most importantly, they represent the hopes and dreams of generations of young girls all over the world – the future of the WNBA.”
The WNBA Top 20@20 presented by Verizon includes nine current players: Bird, Cash, Seimone Augustus, Tamika Catchings, Maya Moore, Candace Parker, Cappie Pondexter, Diana Taurasi and Lindsay Whalen. Eleven former players are also among the honorees: Jackson, Cynthia Cooper, Yolanda Griffith, Becky Hammon, Lisa Leslie, Deanna Nolan, Ticha Penicheiro, Katie Smith, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and Teresa Weatherspoon.
“Dominant. Exciting. Game-changers. That’s what comes to mind with these 20 incredibly talented, skilled and entertaining players,” said Renee Brown, the WNBA’s Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, who has been an executive with the WNBA since its formation in 1996. “There are scorers, playmakers, ball-handlers, rebounders, defensive stoppers, leaders and players who have brought out the best in their teammates. There are players who built the league, players who elevated the game to new heights and players who will carry the torch and inspire the next generation of superstars. Of the more than 850 players who have taken the court during our 20 seasons, I can’t think of 20 women who better represent where the league has come from and where it is headed.”
The 60 nominees for the WNBA Top 20@20 presented by Verizon were selected based on factors like on-court performance and ability, leadership and sportsmanship, as well as contributions to team success. In addition, all players must have been a member of a WNBA team for two seasons and met three of the following seven criteria: the winner of a major individual award; a selection to either the All-WNBA First Team or All-WNBA Second Team; a selection to either the WNBA All-Defensive First Team or WNBA All-Defensive Second Team; a selection to the WNBA All-Star Game; a member of a WNBA Championship team; a current ranking among the top 30 career leaders in at least one major statistical category; and a selection to either the WNBA’s All-Decade Team (voted on in 2006) or the WNBA’s Top 15 Players (voted on in 2011).
Voting for the WNBA Top 20@20 presented by Verizon was conducted by a 15-member committee comprised of Carol Blazejowski and Ann Meyers Drysdale (women’s basketball pioneers and members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Hall of fame); Michael Cooper and Cheryl Reeve (current WNBA head coaches); Van Chancellor and Anne Donovan (members of the Naismith HOF and WBHOF, and former WNBA head coaches); media members Doug Feinberg (Associated Press), Mel Greenberg (womhoops.blogspot.com; also a member of the WBHOF), and Howard Megdal (Excelle Sports editor); Doris Burke, LaChina Robinson, and Pam Ward (ESPN basketball broadcasters); Mechelle Voepel and Michelle Smith (espnW.com writers); and Melanie Jackson (espnW.com editor).
“To be included among the top 20 players in this league’s history is a huge honor,’ said Bird, a nine-time WNBA All-Star selection and two-time WNBA champion. “Watching the level of competition rise over the years has been incredible and I am excited to see where the league goes in the next 20.”