The WNBA did something very special today, as they continue to celebrate it's 20th season. It disclosed the 20 greatest and most influential players in its history.
Now think about taking hundreds of women who have played in the league and cutting the list down to only 60 players - who met the criteria to be considered - and from there leaving only 20 women. Today, Hannah Storm announced on ESPN's SportsCenter, the WNBA Top 20@20 presented by Verizon, of the most influential and greatest players in league history.
President of the WNBA, Lisa Borders, shared her praise for the women who were honored:
"The 20 women honored today are an extraordinarily accomplished group both on and off the basketball court. On the court, they represent the absolute best in women's professional basketball and are in so many ways larger than life. Off the court, they represent their teams, hometowns, and communities in which they live and work with the utmost professionalism.
"And most importantly, they represent the hopes and dreams of generations of young girls all over the world - the future of the WNBA."
This monumental 20th season brings together the different generations of the league in a new way. Not by former players coming to the games, however, a compiled list of the Top 20 players in the first 20 years of the WNBA.
Today, June 21st marks the anniversary of the inaugural regular-season (1997) game being played; the New York Liberty defeated the Los Angeles Sparks. It is only fitting; today is the day the league releases their list of the top 20.
Here are the names of the 20 players, plus the team(s) they played for. The order of the name does not correlate with the ranking of positions 1-20:
Player WNBA Teams
Seimone Augustus Minnesota Lynx (2006-Current)
Sue Bird Seattle Storm (2002-Current)
Swin Cash Detroit Shock (2002-07), Seattle Storm (2008-11), Chicago Sky (2012-13), Atlanta Dream (2014), New York Liberty (2014-Current)
Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever (2002-Current)
Cynthia Cooper-Dyke Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2003)
Yolanda Griffith Sacramento Monarchs (1999-2007), Seattle Storm (2008), Indiana Fever (2009)
Becky Hammon New York Liberty (1999-2006), San Antonio Stars (2007-2014)
Lauren Jackson Seattle Storm (2001-12)
Lisa Leslie Los Angeles Sparks (1997-2006, 2008-09)
Maya Moore Minnesota Lynx (2011-Current)
Deanna Nolan Detroit Shock (2001-09)
Candace Parker Los Angeles Sparks (2008-Current)
Ticha Penicheiro Sacramento Monarchs (1998-2009), Los Angeles Sparks (2010-11), Chicago Sky (2012)
Cappie Pondexter Phoenix Mercury (2006-09), New York Liberty (2010-14), Chicago Sky (2015-Current)
Katie Smith* Minnesota Lynx (1999-2005), Detroit Shock (2005-2009), Washington Mystics (2010), Seattle Storm (2011-12), New York Liberty (2013)
Sheryl Swoopes Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2002-2007), Seattle Storm (2008), Tulsa Shock (2011)
Diana Taurasi Phoenix Mercury (2004-2014, Current)
Tina Thompson Houston Comets (1997-2008), Los Angeles Sparks (2009-11), Seattle Storm (2012-13)
Teresa Weatherspoon New York Liberty (1997-2003), Los Angeles Sparks (2004)
Lindsay Whalen Connecticut Sun (2004-09), Minnesota Lynx (2010-Current)
Wow! What a list of names that is!
Throughout the day, these 20 women will be promoted during various ESPN networks, including SportsCenter on ESPN at noon ET, Coast-to-Coast during which Cari Champion, who will be interviewing two-time WNBA MVP and four-time Finals MVP, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. The Phoenix Mercury play the Dallas Wings at 8 p.m ET on ESPN2, which also will show honor to the Top 20 of the league.
Cooper-Dyke shared her gratitude for making the list, "It's such a joy to be honored by the WNBA in this way. It means so much to be able to celebrate the 20th year of the WNBA alongside such outstanding women, and I'm really pleased to see the league going strong.
"I'm proud to be a product of the WNBA, and I'm so gratified to know I made an impact on this game that we love so much. Thank you for this great honor, and fight on!"
While the criteria included individual accolades, these players have looked outside themselves helping their teammates. Renee Brown, the WNBA's Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, saw the list as the best representation of the league in the 20 years it has been around.
"There are scorers, playmakers, ball-handlers, rebounders, defensive stoppers, leaders and players who have brought out the best in their teammates. There are players who built the league, players who elevated the game to new heights and players who will carry the torch and inspire the next generation of superstars.
"Of the more than 850 players who have taken the court during our 20 seasons, I can't think of 20 women who better represent where the league has come from and where it is headed."
Sue Bird and Maya Moore both shared their appreciation of making this elite list.
"To be included among the top 20 players in this league's history is a huge honor," said Bird. "Watching the level of competition rising over the years has been incredible, and I am excited to see where the league goes in the next 20."
"I grew up watching the WNBA, and to be in a class of athletes of the caliber that this league has produced over the past 20 years is a huge honor," added Moore. "It's definitely a dream come true. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to compete at the highest levels and develop my talent to the point that I was even in consideration for this honor."
This year has brought plenty of excitement to the WNBA. Bird, Cooper-Dyke and Moore all expressed the excitement they have of not only being on the list, however seeing the continued development of where the league will be in 20 years down the road. The 15-person committee hit the nail on the head with this list of 20 players.
Playing in the WNBA is tough, but of the Top 20 players, 13 of the women have been great playing abroad as well, bringing home at least one gold medal for the US in the Olympics since 2004. (Bird, Cash, Catchings, Griffith, Leslie, Smith, Swoopes, Taurasi, Thompson, Parker, Pondexter, Moore and Whalen).
Cooper-Dyke, Leslie, Swoopes, Thompson and Weatherspoon all played in the first season of the WNBA. Anybody who follows the WNBA, knows these women have been pioneers for the league, and before the list came, they were already referred to as some of the best players in the league.
As the league continues to grow, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be another list that comes out to honor players. In 2006, the league released an All-Decade Team in honor of the best players in the first 10 years of the league. Bird, Catchings, Cooper-Dyke, Griffith, Jackson, Leslie, Smith, Swoopes and Thompson are the nine members of that list of 10 who also are members of this list.
With that happening, it could be another 10 years before a list of names comes out honoring even more players in the WNBA, or sooner you never know. The league has young firepower in players such as, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins and Breanna Stewart, who are all great, yet didn't make the list.
The competition is the best in the WNBA and every year the talent is progressing, giving committees a tougher job to decide a list of names of players to be honored.