A "Ring of Honor" for every WNBA franchise!

I've found the recent New York Liberty Ring of Honor very interesting.  Now in their 15th year as a WNBA franchise - and one of the original franchises from 1997 which is still in operation - the New York Liberty have founded a Ring of Honor to honor five former Liberty players.  I can't find out much of the criteria involved, but according to the Liberty press release "The 'Ring of Honor will represent retired players who have made the most significant contributions to the Liberty's tradition of excellence and to the growth of the WNBA."

So we know a few things.  The players have to be retired.  But the other qualifiers are rather vague. 

How do you contribute to the Liberty's "tradition of excellence"?  Much less, how does one contribute to the growth of the WNBA - how does one quantify something like that?  That's the kind of stuff that drives a stathead crazy.

The first four inductees were Kym Hampton, Vickie Johnson, Teresa Weatherspoon and Sue Wicks.  You could maybe understand Wicks, who spent her entire career in a New York Uniform.  Johnson and Weatherspoon had long careers and T-Spoon was a fan favorite.  But I don't get the choice of Kym Hampton, who only played three years in the WNBA. 

Hampton scored the first Liberty basket in that inaugural 1997 game but we didn't get much to look at.  (Maybe part of the problem was that Hampton was almost 35 in her first season, and a lot of her career was robbed from her.)  She must have done a lot for the Libs but a fan who goes looking up Hampton in Wikipedia or on is going to be very confused.

So I decided to make up my own Ring of Honor for each of the WNBA franchises in existence.  I chose my five players for each WNBA franchise based on a ridiculous set of criteria, but at least the criteria would be rigidly applied.

1.  The player in question had to play at least 85 games for their franchise.  (I figure an average of 17 games a year for five years establishes you as a team presence.)  Position wasn't important.  Whether or not they started wasn't important.  Whether or not they were saints or sinners wasn't important.  If you make 85 games you have a shot; 84 and you're out.  For franchises that have never made it to five years, the minimum games qualifier was "17 games x number of years franchise has existed".

2.  Rankings were by Player Efficiency Rating while wearing the uniform of the franchise.  In effect, you only have to be a good player for your franchise to get in the ring of honor, and nowhere else.  This was calculated by weighted PER per year over the part of their career they played for the given team. The funny number at the end of the name is franchise PER, and a rough translation is "15.00 PER = average, 30.00 PER = MVP."  It's extremely hard to maintain a 30.00 PER; the number has only been achieved in a handful of seasons by a handful of players.

3.  There was nothing preventing a player from being in more than one Ring of Honor.  This isn't like the Baseball Hall of Fame where when they put you on the plaque you have to pick one hat even if you were great for both the Yankees and the Dodgers.

The results looked...well, they looked weird.  Teams that have been around a lonnnnng time obviously have big name players in their Rings of Honor, and teams that either haven't been around very long (Atlanta) or have underachieved (Chicago) might leave you scratching your heads.  PER is particularly brutal to point guards, so Your Favorite Point Guard might not be on the short list of your franchise.

Furthermore, players that you automatically associate with your favorite franchise might inexplicably not make the cut.  If you're an Atlanta Dream fan, you can't imagine the Dream without Iziane Castro Marques, one of only two players still on the Dream that were on the original 2008 roster.  Yet, amazingly, she's beaten out in PER by Alison Bales, a player who at best has only started part time.

On the other hand, I was surprised at players that have showed up on multiple lists.  There are eight players that show up on multiple Rings of Honor.  One of them was a player on my own favorite franchise, the Dream!  Two of these players have had the honor of contributing to the Indiana Fever.  One of the players is sort of wearing a gold ring and a brass ring, as one of her two Rings comes from a franchise that only existed for three years.

Three players were cruelly denied rings because they played 84 career games for their franchise - but not 85 games.  Hey, these are my rules!

Anyway, you might enjoy reading this list.  For those players that you don't recognize, read about them on line.  Or go to a women's basketball message board and ask a superfan!

Atlanta Dream (min 51 games)

Angel McCoughtry, 22.22
Sancho Lyttle, 21.09
Erika de Souza, 20.38
Ivory Latta, 14.62
Alison Bales, 14.25

Chicago Sky

Candice Dupree, 19.85
Jia Perkins, 19.21
Armintie Price, 13.95
Dominique Canty, 12.83
Brooke Wyckoff, 7.91  (worse franchise PER for a Ring of Honor winner - not a lot of Sky players have hung around for 85 games)

Connecticut Sun/Orlando Miracle

Taj McWilliams, 20.66
Margo Dydek, 19.99
Lindsey Whalen, 19.78
Nykesha Sales, 19.01
Katie Douglas, 18.90

Indiana Fever

Tamika Catchings, 26.91
Katie Douglas, 18.92
Natalie Williams, 18.29
Tammy Sutton-Brown, 16.59
Jurgita Streimikyte, 15.48

(Rita Williams missed inclusion by one game)

Los Angeles Sparks

Lisa Leslie, 24.24
Mwadi Mabika, 16.13
Delisha Milton-Jones, 16.10
Ukari Figgs, 15.26
Tamecka Dixon, 15.07

Minnesota Lynx

Seimone Augustus, 22.76
Nicky Anosike, 19.87
Katie Smith, 19.68
Charde Houston, 19.56
Nicole Ohlde, 15.27

New York Liberty

Janel McCarville, 19.99
Becky Hammon, 19.10
Elena Baranova, 18.94
Tari Phillips, 18.59
Sophia Witherspoon, 17.43

Phoenix Mercury

Diana Taurasi, 24.56
Penny Taylor, 22.63
Maria Stepanova, 21.67
Cappie Pondexter, 21.63
Jennifer Gillom, 19.14

(Marlies Askamp missed inclusion by one game)

San Antonio Silver Stars/Utah Starzz

Natalie Williams, 21.64
Becky Hammon, 20.93
Sophia Young, 20.59
Margo Dydek, 20.25
Wendy Palmer, 18.27

Seattle Storm

Lauren Jackson, 28.63
Sue Bird, 18.12
Betty Lennox, 16.57
Kamila Vodicková, 15.70
Janell Burse, 15.53

Tulsa Shock/Detroit Shock

Plenette Pierson, 18.26
Cheryl Ford, 18.21
Swin Cash, 17.50
Deanna Nolan, 17.01
Kara Braxton, 15.98

Washington Mystics

Chamique Holdsclaw, 23.76
Crystal Langhorne, 19.81
Alana Beard, 19.18
Laurie Koehn, 17.23
Nikki McCray, 16.92



"Gone But Not Forgotten"

Charlotte Sting

Vicky Bullett, 21.38
Andrea Stinson, 20.04
Rhonda Mapp, 19.34
Tammy Sutton-Brown, 17.82
Kelly Miller, 16.86

Cleveland Rockers

Penny Taylor, 21.13
Chasity Melvin, 18.19
Rushia Brown, 16.75
Eva Nemcova, 16.18
Merlakia Jones, 14.84

(Ann Wauters missed inclusion by one game)

Houston Comets

Cynthia Cooper, 28.73
Sheryl Swoopes, 24.93
Sancho Lyttle, 20.76
Tina Thompson, 19.65
Michelle Snow, 17.86

Miami Sol (min 51 games)

Sheri Sam, 18.32
Sandy Brondello, 15.04
Debbie Black, 14.82
Kristen Rasmussen, 14.14
Marlies Askamp, 13.48

Portland Fire (min 51 games)

Alisa Burras, 18.63
Sophia Witherspoon, 15.61
Kristin Folkl, 15.06
Tamicha Jackson, 14.66
Sylvia Crawley, 14.29

Sacramento Monarchs

Yolanda Griffith, 26.13
Rebekka Brunson, 19.39
Latasha Byears, 18.91
Nicole Powell, 17.81
Ruthie Bolton, 17.12