Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi file photo. (Photo by Lorie Shaull is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/?ref=openverse.)

The 2023 WNBA playoffs have ignited a fervor of excitement among basketball enthusiasts and fans of women’s sports alike. As the world’s premier women’s basketball league, the WNBA showcases the finest talent in the game, and this year’s postseason promises to be nothing short of spectacular. With seasoned veterans and emerging stars set to clash on the hardwood, the 2023 playoffs are poised to deliver thrilling competition and inspire a new generation of basketball devotees. As they kick off this year, we decided to take a look into the best women’s basketball players of all time.

A recent study sought to find how female athletes are covered by the media compared to their male counterparts. A team of researchers from the University of Southern California and Purdue University recently found that women athletes are criticized unfairly in comparison to men. The study looked at the ways major sports outlets such as ESPN and local news affiliates covered female sports as opposed to male sports. Although the media’s coverage of women’s sports has improved over the years, the study ultimately found “lackluster” coverage of women’s athletics

Despite less-than-ideal media coverage of women’s sports teams, female athletes are making their presence felt across a range of sports as well as traditionally “male-dominated” activities such as chess. According to a recent study from researchers at the University of Sheffield, female chess players perform better than expected against men in chess matches based on their official ratings. The study also found that women are not affected by negative stereotypes about female chess players in competitive chess matches. 

This isn’t the first time that women have broken gender-based stereotypes in predominantly male-oriented games, activities, or sports, and it certainly won’t be the last. Time and time again, women have proved they’re just as capable of performing as men. But, urging your daughter into playing sports is about more than breaking the glass ceiling. Sports are an incredibly healthy outlet for everyone. We’re all aware of the benefits sports offer, but there are tons of ‘hidden’ benefits of playing sports throughout life. In fact, researchers from Michigan State University found that playing sports, especially in college, is linked to better grades. These findings aren’t restricted to NCAA Division One scholarship athletics, either. The study found that even those students who take part in college intramural sports during their freshman year are less likely to fail or drop classes.

Speaking of trailblazing, some of the greatest female athletes have paved the way for young girls in sports today. StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 sports and basketball websites in an effort to ultimately find the best women’s basketball players of all time. Our list is comprised of the five most frequently listed athletes from across these sites. As always, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

Lisa Leslie with students at the 2015 School Choice Week rally at the Arizona State Capitol
Lisa Leslie with students at the 2015 School Choice Week rally at the Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr ((CC BY-SA 2.0))

The List: Best Women’s Basketball Players of All Time, Per Sports Experts

1. Diana Taurasi

Topping the list of the best women’s basketball players of all time is legendary Phoenix Mercury Guard, Diana Taurasi. Her tenacity combined with her ability to either score or distribute helps make Taurasi one of the top players to ever step on a court. 

“The league’s all-time leading scorer and maybe the greatest women’s basketball player of all time, Taurasi plays with an arrogant swagger that belongs to her and only her, possessing an almost Jordan-esque delight in tearing her opponents’ hearts out and holding them aloft in front of them,” writes Fan Buzz

If you’ve never seen Taurasi play, it’s hard to describe her style without using words such as tough, tenacious, and versatile. Taurasi is not only one of the best WNBA players of all time but she’s also considered an NCAA legend. “She also might be the best college player ever after a spectacular career at UConn that featured three straight NCAA championships,” adds Fan Buzz.  

Taurasi is a scoring machine. Even though her scoring prowess hasn’t always been directly related to championships, Taurasi has been an excellent player for a long, long time. 

“Taurasi hasn’t won the most championships, and she hasn’t won the most MVPs. But it is her consistent offensive greatness and her longevity that set her apart from her peers. Others have been ‘better’ over specific stretches or had stronger concentrations of dominance, but what makes Taurasi special is that she has been one of the top performers for a long time,” explains ESPN

“Diana Taurasi was the first overall draft pick by the Phoenix Mercury in 2004 and has spent her entire 17-year career with the team. She’s a 10-time All-Star and one-time MVP. She averaged more than 20 points per game seven times in her career, including 25.3 points in 2006 and 24.1 points in 2008,” adds At the Buzzer

2. Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings was one of the best forwards to ever play basketball, male or female. Catchings appeared on 90 percent of the lists we referenced and she was never ranked lower than fourth across the board. “An argument could be made that Tamika Catchings is the greatest player of all-time because she ranks in the top 10 all time in no less than 15 major statistical categories… Catchings is a prolific scorer in the post, off the dribble and from three point range. She is in the top 10 all-time in total points, total rebounds total assists and three point field goals made,” explains Bleacher Report

“The forward spent her entire 15-year WNBA career with the Indiana Fever. Named Rookie of the Year in 2002, she would go on to make 10 All-Star Game appearances and earn seven WNBA First Team selections. She also became the only player in the WNBA or NBA to win five Defensive Player of the Year awards. In 2012, Catchings led the Fever to their first and only championship and was named Finals MVP. Five years later, the Fever retired her No. 24,” explains Just Women’s Sports

Obviously, Tamika Catchings is the greatest basketball player in Indiana Fever history“The ultimate professional, few female basketball players were as consistent at both ends of the floor for a longer period. Catchings never led the league in any major statistical category, but the totality of her career places her among the best to ever step on the court,” adds The Betting Punter

3. Lisa Leslie

Swishing into the third spot on the list of the best women’s basketball players of all time is Lisa Leslie, a center for the LA Sparks. “The WNBA’s all-time leader in rebounds has accomplished every goal a player can have in the WNBA. Leslie retired following a 2009 season in which she led her team to the Western Conference Finals by averaging 15.4 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, 2.1 assists per game and 1.4 blocks per game,” writes Bleacher Report

Although Leslie’s career wasn’t quite as long as some of the others on this list, her ability to consistently play at a high level separates her from her competition. Lisa Leslie was also successful at every level. “Leslie was a dominant post player with the Los Angeles Sparks for her entire 13-year WNBA career, and she is one of just three players in league history to earn the WNBA MVP three times. Leslie earned her first of four Olympic gold medals as a member of the Dream Team at the 1996 Atlanta Games,” adds Chase Your Sport.   

It’s often overlooked that Leslie began her career during the first half of the 90s. “Leslie was part of the Dream Team that won at the 1996 Atlanta Games, her first of four Olympic gold medals, and then was an original WNBA player with Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo. Assigned to her hometown team in Los Angeles, Leslie was a fearsome defender, a go-to scorer and as talented a center as women’s hoops has seen,” adds ESPN

4. Maya Moore

 Moore was the obvious first-overall choice while she was still in college, playing for the legendary women’s basketball program at UConn. She then went on to play as a forward for the Minnesota Lynx.

“In her first season she made an immediate impact, earning an All-Star appearance. While her career was cut short due to her deciding to focus on criminal justice reform in 2019, Moore’s resume is remarkable. Moore won almost every award imaginable, including Rookie of the Year, Finals MVP, league MVP, a scoring title, and multiple All-WNBA First Team selections. Moore led the Minnesota Lynx team to six WNBA Finals over a seven-year span,” explains The Betting Punter

Moore’s six championship game appearances in seven years made for one of the most dominant stretches in sports history. Of those six appearances, Maya Moore’s team won four titles. Still, her list of accomplishments seemingly goes on forever. 

“Moore joined the league as the No. 1 selection in 2011, with unimaginable expectations. She had surpassed all of them by the eighth season. Moore would go on to become the WNBA’s face. Moore has four WNBA titles, a WNBA Most Valuable Player Award (2014), a WNBA Finals MVP Award (2013), three WNBA All-Star Game MVPs, two Olympic gold medals, a WNBA Scoring Title, and the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award to her credit,” explains Chase Your Sport

Despite her dominance, Moore stepped away from the game after only nine seasons to concentrate on freeing her now husband from a wrongful prison sentence. It’s no surprise to fans that Maya Moore was successful in her efforts. “Before stepping away from basketball to focus on criminal justice reform and free Jonathan Irons from a wrongful prison conviction, Moore was a six-time All-Star, a WNBA MVP and a Finals MVP,” writes Just Women’s Sports

5. Cynthia Cooper

The legendary Houston Comets guard appeared in the top six on 60 percent of the lists we referenced. Cynthia Cooper was another one of the first stars to play in the WNBA. “At the age of 34, Cooper led the Comets franchise to four consecutive WNBA championships from 1997-2000. In three of those seasons, she also led the league in scoring. Cooper was named a four-time Finals MVP, two-time MVP and three-time All-Star during her five-year WNBA career,” explains Just Women’s Sports

Cooper joined the league well into her storied playing career. Not by choice, either. Still, Cooper dominated the league upon her arrival in 1997. “Cynthia Cooper joined the Houston Comets as a 34-year-old in 1997 – the WNBA’s inaugural season. She had already enjoyed an amazing career overseas and continued that success in the WNBA. She scored at least 22 points per game in her first three seasons, won two MVP awards, and led the Comets to four titles,” adds At the Buzzer

It’s a shame that the bulk of Cooper’s playing career took place overseas and not here in America for all of her fans to see. “Cooper is one of the top offensive threats in WNBA history and was the master of the pick-and-roll. At her best, she was unstoppable, leading the league in scoring three times. When not scoring, Cooper was an excellent passer and defender, averaging nearly five assists and 1.6 steals per game… Her basketball IQ was off the chart. She redefined the position and set the model for the women’s game moving forward,” adds The Betting Punter.    

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About Matthew Sherdan

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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1 Comment

  1. Lionel Butler says:

    Lisa Leslie over Cynthia Cooper?? Yal are on crack.