The WNBA has had a lot of great years in its 23-year history, but 16-year veteran Diana Taurasi believes that 2020 was one of its best.
Taurasi spoke to ESPN’s Katie Barnes about her recent past and future, and got reflective about what the WNBA accomplished in 2020. While the initial focus was on the COVID-19 adjustments — the season was cut by 12 games and played entirely at IMG Academy in Florida — that soon shifted to the Black Lives Matter movement.
‘It was more than just playing basketball’
The WNBA was at the forefront of athlete activism against systemic racism, and for Taurasi, playing basketball was about so much more than a game or a season.
We were playing the season for a cause that was bigger than basketball: the Black Lives Matter movement, getting the vote out. We wanted to make sure people knew why we were playing. And it was more than just playing basketball. Obviously that's what we love to do and we work so hard to be on the court, but there were so many social issues that were more important than that.
Taurasi admitted that the season sometimes felt “heavy,” but she knows that’s part of activism. The entire WNBA was able to show a united front, and that made her very proud.
When you involve your time and your energy, those things weigh on you. There was a moment where we took a pause, and we regathered our thoughts about why we were there in the bubble. It was nice we did it as a league and as a unified front. It's not something that's easy to do; to get everyone on the same page and get them going in the right direction. It's never easy, but we found a way to do it. Being a part of the WNBA for so many years, this was one of our proudest years for sure.
While Taurasi is proud of the work she and her fellow WNBA players have done to get out the vote and fight systemic racism, she’s quick to give the credit to the people and organizations that were there before they were. She sees the WNBA as a conduit to get out these important messages and give them more attention.
Whatever I could do to support my community, the Black community, the brown community. I think it was a culmination of all these thoughts, all these feelings and all these ideas, and this was the time to really back it up. I was 100% in it; I still am. Whatever I can do to help the people leading the cause and leading the charge. They're the ones that should get all the credit. They've been doing it for years. These organizations don't just pop up. You don't get the credit just for backing it. They should get the credit because they've put in the hard work. If the WNBA was a way that message got heard by more people, was seen by more people, that's how I want to be a part of it.
‘My sole objective is to be on the court and to be badass’
Taurasi, now 38 years old, says she’s definitely not ready to retire. While injuries limited her to just 6 games in 2019, she came back in 2020 better than ever. She told Barnes that her body feels good and that playing at a high level is her entire focus.
It's funny, there's all these slogans like "you're never too old to keep dreaming." You know it's funny how in the basketball world, and in the business world where you're just supposed to stop. In the sports world, I feel like at 35 you're just supposed to stop. If you do, that's great.
I'm not stopping; I don't feel like I should stop right now. Who knows? In six months, it could be a different story. But right now, people ask me what I want to do after basketball ... I'm doing basketball right now. I'm doing everything I can to be on the court. Not to be in the front office, not to coach. My sole objective is to be on the court and to be badass. It's just simple.
How will she know that’s she’s ready to retire? She has one simple criteria.
I say this to a lot of my good friends: "The minute you see that I suck, tell me and I'm out." Instead of lying to me, someone let me know!
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