A Decade of Diana: No. 4
By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: March 21, 2013
In celebration of Diana Taurasi being named as the X-Factor’s Favorite Mercury Player of All-Time, and coinciding with the superstar entering her 10th year with the Mercury in 2013, PhoenixMercury.com has launched a special tribute series entitled, “A Decade of Diana.” Every Thursday starting Feb. 7 for 10 weeks, we’ll relive Taurasi’s 10 best moments with the team since her arrival in 2004.
Taurasi Moment No. 4: September 29, 2009
It's pretty special.”
Prior to Game 1 of the 2009 WNBA Finals, Diana Taurasi stands alone outside of the Phoenix Mercury locker room. As eventful and complex as the scene was around her, Taurasi seemed equally as poised.
“Hey,” I say while giving daps. “You ready?”
“Always,” she says, cracking a smile but looking increasingly focused and motivated. “Just have to do a quick appearance.”
The “appearance” Taurasi is referring to contains a tad more prestige, to say the least. It’s the same one that has thousands of Mercury fans buzzing. The same one that created a transformed Al McCoy Media Center inside a packed US Airways Center. The same one that the president of the WNBA is in town for along with dozens of local and national media members.
The 2009 WNBA MVP award.
The press conference went like everyone knew it would. Taurasi, in typical fashion, deflected any individual recognition to her teammates and coaches – which, considering the season she had, speaks volumes about her integrity.
In 2009, Taurasi ranked among the WNBA’s top ten leaders in nearly every category, including points per game (first), three point field goals made (first), three-point field goals attempted (fourth), three-point field goal percentage (seventh), free throws made (third), free throws attempted (fifth), free throw percentage (sixth), field goals made (fifth), field goals attempted (10th), blocks per game (eighth) and defensive rebounds per game (sixth).
Her efforts helped propel the Mercury to the best record in the WNBA at 23-11, which also tied a franchise record, and the top overall seed in the 2009 WNBA Playoffs.
For Taurasi, the arduous journey over the months leading up to this moment had been anything but calm. Yet, depending on one’s view of the world, meeting and overcoming problems is what gives life meaning. True growth comes when the weather is dreadful and you’ve made a conscious decision to right the ship, not when the sailing is smooth and things are tranquil.
Taurasi, to no one’s surprise, righted the ship.
Even still, with the opening game of the 2009 WNBA Finals against the Indiana Fever just minutes away, the sense of accomplishment that instinctively comes from winning the MVP felt incomplete or unfinished.
In Taurasi’s mind, fame and celebrity are empty rewards; winning, rather, is the true measure of success.
Appropriately, Game 1 of the WNBA Finals amplified the remembrance of her MVP award because, like Taurasi, it was more about the collective whole than any one person or player. Now, I’ve never been accused of being light on hyperbole, but Game 1 of the 2009 WNBA Finals continues to be considered by many as the greatest WNBA game ever played.
"It was fun,'' Taurasi said after the historic game. “Kind of showing a different side of women's basketball - how high a level it is. It's fun to be in the game and I'm sure it was fun to watch.''
Using the word “fun” to describe that game is the opposite of hyperbole.
Taurasi finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists in a 120-116 overtime victory – the highest scoring WNBA game ever at that time (the record was, fittingly, broken a year later in a 127-124 Mercury win at Minnesota in 2010).
Amazingly, both Phoenix and Indiana shot over 50 percent from the field, 47 percent from three-point range, and 84 percent from the free throw line.
The two teams combined for a record 83 field goals, 236 points and a Finals-record 11 players that scored in double figures (five with more than 20 points) in a game that lasted 45 minutes including the overtime period (which is still three minutes shorter than a standard NBA game). Other records that were broken in that game included: most points in a quarter, most points in a half and most assists in a quarter.
“Well, if you didn't like women's basketball, I think you do now,” Corey Gaines famously said.
When so many people believe they know you on a personal level, it’s challenging to maintain the facade of normalcy, especially in the spotlight. Taurasi’s appeal is universal in that so many people can identify with her humor, candor and sincerity.
That’s why, in 2009, winning the WNBA Championship would, later on, seem like fate. After all, for people like Diana Taurasi, the weight of adversity can often be considered the ultimate conduit towards accountability.
It’s been said that if there was “no peril in the fight, there would be no glory in the triumph.” In Taurasi’s case, the way she ended 2009 irrefutably says far more about her as a person than the way it began.
A Decade of Diana
Visit PhoenixMercury.com on Thursday, March 28 for the No. 3 moment in “A Decade of Diana.”