I thought it was tough trying to get Tina Thompson to talk about herself last week when she became the WNBA's All-Time Leading Scorer, but that was nothing!
Tina is a wonderful teammate, who is very happy to let the spotlight shine on others, as long as she gets the ring in the end. But Tina isn't alone in being that kind of player, and she isn't the only one that's a new WNBA record holder.
Tangela Smith, the tall & lanky center for the Phoenix Mercury has both a similar lack of interest in individual honors and hunger for championship rings. She has earned two with the Phoenix Mercury, and now Smith is the new record holder for Most Games Played in WNBA history with 411, breaking the record of New York Liberty & San Antonio Silver Stars legend Vickie Johnson.
Since she just goes about her business so quietly and efficiently, a lot of people are unaware of the place in history occupied by Tan. This season, she became just the fourth player in league history to record 4,500 points and 2,000 rebounds. On July 3rd, she surpassed Sheryl Swoopes for fifth all-time on the WNBA career scoring list and surpassed Margo Dydek for sixth all-time on the rebounding list.
Durable may be one of the most fitting words to describe Tan. She has incredibly played every game of the season for seven of the last nine seasons, all while playing overseas in the winter as well. Versatile may be another, as shown by her ability to adapt from being a pure post player in the early years of her career in Sacramento to a lethal three-point shooter in Phoenix. She has had to defend players much bigger physically than her, but despite her thin physique she has averaged over five rebounds per game over her 12-year career.
As Tangela Smith prepared to break the record of VJ, who was Tan's teammate last season in Turkey as well as at the start of her career, I had the good fortune of talking to her for the Dishin & Swishin show on www.wstrradio.com. What follows are her thoughts on the milestone.
As previously mentioned, you won't have much luck getting Tangela Smith to talk about herself and those incredible accomplishments. She is all about the team - and all about the ring. Even when I pointed out to her the impressive achievements I wrote about above, she was reluctant to acknowledge her own feats. Well, you really should hear for yourself what it's like trying to get Tan Smith to talk about herself!
The previous record holder was the woman I have called the most underrated player in the history of the WNBA, Vickie Johnson. VJ and Tan have tremendous respect for each other, and have shared winters in Europe on the same team in the Euro League. Both are quiet leaders; both are tremendously respected throughout the league. And both have been guests on Dishin & Swishin! VJ was unavailable to speak to Tan when I conducted my interview but she sent a message to Tan.
Her ability to adapt to different situations and continue to grow and push herself as a player has helped make Tan such a success. She came into the league and played with the Sacramento Monarchs, a team that put her in a post rotation that included the incredible Yolanda Griffith. She was a pure post player who excelled at defense and rebounding. She was traded to Charlotte and while there decided to take her game to another level and develop a three-point shot. In Sacramento, Tan made 39 threes in seven seasons; in 2006, she made 31 alone! Maybe she knew what was coming next, because with the trade to Phoenix and the running system of Paul Westhead, Tan has thrived. I talked to her about constantly evolving her game.
In the end, Tangela Smith is on a quest -- a quest for a third ring. So with the Seattle Storm in a commanding position in the West, and the Mercury seemingly close to locking up 2nd place, what has to be done to make the run to the title a reality? And what does she think of the Mercury's frontcourt with the addition of Kara Braxton?