Women's Sport: Top Ten WNBA Players of all time

Each year WNBA players exceed expectations both on and off the court without much recognition outside of the women’s basketball world, GMS took this as a mission to provide you with a rundown of the Top 10 WNBA Players of all time.

1. Carol Blazejowski

Blazejowski, known as ‘Blaze’, was a powerhouse of record-setting and firsts from the moment she set foot on a court as a high school senior in 1974. Known for her highly competitive style, Blaze went on to set long-standing records at Montclair (N.J.) State College, dropping the highest women’s career scoring average at 31.7 ppg and single-season average at 38.6 ppg.

The three-time All-American (1976, 1977, and 1978) also claimed the first Wade Trophy for Women’s Basketball Player of the Year in 1978 and splashed a record 52 points against Queens College on March 6, 1997, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Blazejowski was the top scorer for Team USA in both the 1977 and 1979 World University Games (WUG) with a 164 point total in the first and 129 points and a gold medal in the second.

From 1980-81, Blaze played for the New Jersey Gems in the Women’s Basketball League, led in scoring for the season and was crowned MVP before the league went bankrupt. She was vital in the development of the WNBA in 1997 and signed on as general manager and vice president of New York Liberty, one of the WNBA’s original eight teams.

One of the few women to be inducted into The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994 and a high-scorer before the invention of the three-point line, Blazejowski deserves our top spot. 

2. Diana Taurasi

Three-time WNBA Champion (2014, 2009, 2007) Taurasi is one of only five athletes in history with four Olympic gold medals (2016, 2012, 2008, 2004) in basketball. She was both the No. 1 overall pick by Phoenix in the 2004 WNBA Draft and Rookie of the Year before she really turned it up with nine WNBA All-Star appearances, all of which she started in.

The two-time WNBA Finals MVP currently holds the title for the most points in the WNBA at 8575, with an outstanding field goal percentage of 43.4%. Taurasi’s reach stretches far beyond the US as she is named a six-time Euroleague Champion and three-time Euroleague Final Four MVP, the WNBA all-time leader in made field goals (2,725) deserves honourable mention in second place. 

3. Tamika Catchings

Drafted third overall in the 2001 WNBA Draft, Catchings has completed 15 seasons in the WNBA but her impact off the court is what really makes this star shine. She was the recipient of the very first ESPN Humanitarian Award in 2015 and is the founder of Catch The Stars Foundation, a community service non-profit that empowers youths (ages 7-18) by providing programmes to promote fitness, literacy and youth development.

On the court the five-time Defensive Player of the Year (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012) is crowned the all-time leaders in steals with 1074, followed by Ticha Penicheiro who has just 764. A ten-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medallist, Catchings is a proven force on and off the court. 

4. Maya Moore

The two-time Olympic gold medallist turned humanitarian has a lengthy rap sheet of accolades including her inspirational 2019 departure from the WNBA to help Jonathan Irons, a wrongfully-imprisoned man, dissolve his charges. Moore showed herself as a stellar athlete from the outset, only losing three games throughout her whole high school career and helping the team to first place in the country by the time she was a senior.

Moore, the first-overall pick to Minnesota Lynx in the 2011 WNBA Draft, started off her WNBA career as Rookie of the Year and went on to rack up four Championships – one of which she won MVP (2013). Named Western Conference All-Star five times, two of which were MVP years, and player of the month eight times, the two-time FIBA World Championship gold medallist sits a close fourth on our list. 

5. Cynthia Cooper

The 2010 Hall of Famer is known as the first superstar of the WNBA despite her being 34 by the time of the league’s inaugural season. During her college career at the University of Southern California, Cooper teamed with Cheryl Miller and the pair took the Trojans to two national championships in 1983 and 1984.

Cooper was the driving force behind the Houston Comets and led the team to four WNBA Championships – the first four of the league. The three-time WNBA All-Star also clinched Finals MVP for each of the four Championships and led the WNBA in scoring for three consecutive seasons (1997-1999) with very consistent averages of 22.2, 22.7, and 22.1 points per game. 

6. Sue Bird

The all-time WNBA assists leader made a name for herself in high school when she led her team to the New York State Championships and earned the WBCA All-American title for her efforts. Joining the UConn Huskies in 1998, Bird tore her ACL in her freshmen year but still went on to lead the team to an unbelievable 114-4 record.

The college star racked up two NCAA Championships, three Nancy Liberman Awards as the best point guard and the Naismith Award as College Player of the Year, before being selected by Seattle Storm as the first overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft. Bird’s WNBA career produced three Championships, eleven All-Star appearances, four Olympic gold medals and four FIBA World Cups. 

7. Ticha Penicheiro

Playing for the Sacramento Monarchs in the WNBA for most of her professional career, Penicheiro is a four-time WNBA All-Star and a three-time All-WNBA selection. She led the Monarchs to their first WNBA championship and ranks second for most career assists of all time, leading the league in assists seven times.

In 2019, Penicheiro was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and is now an accredited sports agent with around 30 clients, some of which are current WNBA players. 

8. Elena Delle Donne

Delle Donne became the most highly touted women’s basketball recruit since Candace Parker following her high school career but dropped out of a scholarship to UConn due to personal reasons. Enrolling at the University of Delaware instead, the freshman averaged 26.7ppg, the third-highest of in Division I women’s basketball, and was voted “Player of the Year” and “Rookie of the Year” – nobody man or woman had won both awards in the same season.

Selected second overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky, Delle Donne went on to win WNBA Rookie of the Year and led all players in votes for the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game, the first time a rookie had done so. Today, the six-time All-Star has won one Championship, two MVP awards and three Olympic gold medals. 

Delle Donne is an inspiration, named a Special Olympics Global Ambassador in 2014 and played in the third annual NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game during All-Star weekend.

She has an older sister Lizzie who has autism and cerebral palsy and has been blind and deaf since birth. The pair have an incredible bond and Delle Donne often credits Lizzie for her own strength in her battle with Lyme’s disease.

9. Lisa Leslie

The four-time Olympic gold medal winner was the number-seven pick in the 1997 inaugural WNBA draft after her career at the University of Southern California. Leslie bagged eight WNBA All-Star selections and two WNBA championships over eleven seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks and even became the first player to dunk in a WNBA game.

The 2004 and 2008 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year is also a two-time Finals MVP and three-time WNBA MVP. In 2015, Leslie was inducted into both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. 

10. Lindsay Whalen

Selected fourth in the first round of the 2004 WNBA Draft by the Connecticut Sun after a decorated college career at the University of Minnesota, Whalen led the Sun to two consecutive WNBA Finals in her first and second seasons, although the team lost both series. She was also crowned WNBA playoffs all-time assists leader and was awarded WNBA assists leader three times. 

Traded to her Minnesota Lynx in January 2010, Whalen helped lead the team to its first-ever WNBA Championship with the second-best record in franchise history. The two-time Olympic gold medallist is currently a five-time WNBA All-Star and four-time WNBA Champion, whilst No. 13 was retired by Minnesota Lynx at the end of her playing career.

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