The White Mamba’s Hunt Continues in Phoenix
To future fans of the Mercury and WNBA:
Through no fault of your own, you didn’t have the pleasure of seeing Diana Taurasi play basketball. I mean, you haven’t been born yet which makes watching…well…anything pretty much impossible. Nevertheless, in that spirit, I’d love to tell you more about the person and the player. After all, there has never been – and will never be – anyone like the White Mamba (a name given to her by NBA legend Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant).
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Diana Taurasi inked another multi-year extension on Friday, August 8, 2014 to stay with the Phoenix Mercury. She didn’t have to; she wanted to. "Why would I ever want to play anywhere else?" Taurasi said while signing her name along the dotted line. It signified a genuine desire that no matter how many more years she plays or how many more contracts she signs, she wants them all to be with one team and only one team – the Phoenix Mercury.
There’s no debating Taurasi is one of the greatest women’s basketball players of all-time. Indeed, maybe things will be different in the world of professional sports by the time you read this, but her message to the fans and the manner in which she signed her extension – at least in our day and age – is rather unheard of.
Charles Mingus is credited with saying, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.” Taurasi was a master at doing that. You see, for her, there’s nothing complicated about the game of basketball – you play to win, focus on the little things and work your tail off. Every. Single. Day.
She lives life in the exact same manner – simply. For Taurasi, a perfect day is happily conversing with family and close friends near a beach. Or watching a brand new documentary before grabbing a bite to eat at a quiet, new restaurant. Appreciating diversity and inclusivity isn’t a conscious choice; that’s just Dee. But these things came after the hard work. And nobody – I repeat – nobody worked harder than her. (And she loved every second of it.)
An unrivaled (and often misunderstood) passion for the game and life itself was a natural byproduct of her intense, insatiable thirst to be the absolute best player she could possibly be. I chose those words carefully – not the best ever, but the best she could be. NCAA Championships, Olympic gold medals, WNBA Championships, MVPs, scoring titles…it didn’t matter. She was never content; there was always room to improve both on and off the court.
She was never comfortable with being singled out for her individual accolades. And by “never comfortable” I mean she hated it. Basketball, for Taurasi, was unequivocally about the team – win or lose. When her name would be announced during the starting lineups on her home floor, she would run to the team’s huddle near center court to (literally and figuratively) avoid the spotlight.
Every time she played, there were moments that made you shake your head in total awe. But they didn’t come from merely scoring the ball; most were the result of a sick pass to a teammate, inevitably followed by a collective, “How in the heck did she do that?”
Taurasi was the ultimate personification of “walking the walk.” She would never ask anyone to do what she wouldn’t for the team, or work harder than she did. The White Mamba humbly demanded a lot from her teammates, and made no apologies for doing so. But each person knew Taurasi would go to battle with them and have their back at all times.
She high-fived everyone (and I mean everyone) – security guards, referees, fans, kids, arena employees, etc. If it were socially acceptable, she’d high-five her waiter every time they brought her another glass of ice tea. (For all I know, she might already do that.) If she didn’t high-five you, she gave you a fist bump. And if you were lucky enough to get a combination of a high-five and a half-hug? Well, let’s just say she made you feel appreciated every time.
Off the court, there was no one more fun to be around. With her lightning-fast and equally hilarious humor, the famous television show Whose Line is it Anyway? would be perfect for her.
She poured everything she had into making the Mercury successful for over a decade – blood, sweat, tears and time. And Mercury fans adored her; absolutely loved her.
But this isn’t her entire story; many more thrilling chapters are soon to follow. That is to say, the White Mamba’s legacy has been extended.
To be continued…