Taj Joins 5,000/3,000 Club
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The milestones keep coming for Lynx center Taj McWilliams-Franklin.
Already this summer, the 14-year veteran has reached two rebounding marks that make her one of the best in WNBA history on the boards. On Aug. 28, she became the league’s all-time leader in offensive rebounds against San Antonio at Target Center, and on Sept. 14 in Indiana she notched her 3,000th rebound.
On Thursday, she joined another exclusive group.
McWilliams-Franklin became the second player in WNBA history to record 5,000 points and 3,000 rebounds in her career Thursday night, reaching the milestone with a second quarter lay-up in a 92-76 loss to the Sparks. Mama Taj accomplished the feat in limited minutes Thursday, scoring four points on 2-of-4 shooting in 12 minutes of work as the Lynx monitor and prepare for the postseason.
She did it in L.A., where Lisa Leslie—the only other 5,000/3,000 player in league history—spent her entire 12-year career. Leslie retired in 2009 with 6,263 points and 3,307 rebounds.
“It’s an incredible honor to be even associated with someone of Lisa Leslie’s caliber, especially in the WNBA, and the fact that I can join it later in my career provides me a great deal of joy,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “Just the fact that it’s something that I didn’t even think about or expect, someone brought it up to me and then to find out that it’s finally true and real and I’m the second player to do it. I won’t be the last, but only the second. It’s pretty exciting. It’s pretty overwhelming but really great.”
Now, they’re part of a group that awaits other members, which could take a while. Tina Thompson is the closest, as the 16-year veteran already has 7,003 career points and needs 132 rebounds to join the group. With two regular season games remaining she has logged 96 rebounds this year, meaning she’d need at least one more season—possibly two—to join the club.
Seattle’s Lauren Jackson has 5,992 career points and needs 557 boards to join the club. Indiana’s Tamika Catchings has 5,737 points and 2,610 rebounds. Tangela Smith (5,028 points/2,328 rebounds) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (5,203 points/2,338 rebounds) are the closest active players.
Leslie and Mama Taj will go down as two of the elite rebounders in history, as they rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the all-time list. McWilliams-Franklin’s 3,009 total boards are 298 behind Leslie on the all-time list.
Now, as she chases her third ring and accomplishes rare milestones, she’s helping facilitate the Lynx’s offense next to an All-Star cast of starters. The group, featuring two of the league’s top scorers in Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore, an elite point guard in Lindsay Whalen and a big-time rebounder in Rebekkah Brunson, is anchored by Mama Taj’s presence in the middle thanks to her experience and her know-how on the court.
“I’m always trying to learn; I’ve always got a veteran that’s on top of me, and as far as her years in the league, she’s seen more than I have and experienced more than I have,” Brunson said. “Having someone in the locker room like that, you always try to learn something from her. I always listen to what she says and how she approaches the game.”
Coach Cheryl Reeve preaches McWilliams-Franklin’s intelligence. She’s always preparing, both on the court during shootaround and practices as well as studying film to see where she has an advantage.
Mama Taj said part of what she enjoys about being on this Lynx squad is watching the younger players learn and develop along the way.
“They’re such good kids,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “You always want to see them do well, and I’m extremely proud to be part of each one of their record-breaking seasons, record-breaking feats. For me, it gives me great joy because almost all of them I’ve watched them all grow up in the WNBA as far as their games.”
She’s spent much of her time in Minnesota teaching her younger teammates many of the lessons she’s learned over time. Rookie Devereaux Peters began learning right from training camp, and others like forward Jess Adair have learned tricks throughout her time playing with McWilliams-Franklin.
The key is keeping her eyes and ears open.
“She has so much experience,” Adair said in late August. “If you’re on this team and you don’t take something away from Taj, you’re a fool.”
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