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Taurasi Shoots Her Way Into History

Chicago, Ill. -- Everybody knew what was coming.

Diana Taurasi knew. The Chicago Sky knew. The popcorn vendor in the upper deck knew. And still, it couldn't be stopped.

With Game 3 of the WNBA Finals tied at 82 and the Mercury a win away from a title, Taurasi drove right and hit a clutch jumper over Chicago's Courtney Vandersloot with 14.3 seconds left in the game. She also got fouled and hit the subsequent free throw, thus giving the Mercury a lead they would not relinquish.

"Biggest of my career, hands down," Taurasi said of the shot. "You hit a lot shots in the regular season, playoffs, but in a close-out game in the WNBA Finals, biggest shot I ever hit."

The beauty of the shot might've been in its simplicity.

When asked if there was any doubt if she was the one taking the shot, Taurasi, who was named Finals MVP, did not hesitate.

"No," she declared.

Even the other side acknowledged the obvious.

"Everyone in the world knew who was taking that shot," Chicago's Elena Delle Donne said. "And I do feel like (Vandersloot) defended it great, but (Taurasi) just made a phenomenal shot. Thats what amazing players do.

For Taurasi, this is her third WNBA title, to go along with her three Olympic Gold Medals and three NCAA championships at UConn.

"Apples, oranges and pears, I guess," Taurasi said when asked to compare the titles. "College ones feel great because when you're in college you're really in a family atmosphere with people that are my friends for life. Olympics is for your country. You wear that flag and there's no other feeling like that. And then, the WNBA is the best competition in the world. So when you're champions here, you're champions.

You've earned it."

Throughout her illustrious 10-year career, Taurasi has certainly earned every inch of her success, and leading the Mercury to victory in Game 3 on Friday without star center Brittney Griner, who out sat after undergoing an eye procedure, is just another example. In the process, Taurasi reached a handful of milestones.

By scoring 24 points in Game 3, she's now scored more points in the WNBA Finals than any player in history (passing Deanna Nolan)

Along with her teammate Penny Taylor, Taurasi is now one of only 11 players in WNBA history to win three WNBA titles.

She is just the third player in WNBA history (Cynthia Cooper  four times; Lisa Leslie  two times) to have won two or more Finals MVP awards. She also accomplished that feat in 2009.

"She is the best winner we've had in the WNBA era," ESPN analyst and former WNBA star Rebecca Lobo said prior to Game 3. "Even though (Cynthia) Cooper and (Sheryl) Swoopes had four WNBA championships, Sheryl only had one in college and I think Cooper had at most two in college. Well, Diana had three in college, this could make three in the W, she has three Olympic Golds. She's the greatest winner in the last 20 years of women's basketball."

Taurasi's greatness is not lost on her appreciative teammates.

"Shes the best player in the world and big plays just come easy to her," said Phoenix guard Erin Phillips, who won her second WNBA title in three years. "She just makes it look so easy. So I said to her after the game thank you, you know, because really shes just carried us and its a real privilege to be on her team and to win a championship with her.

Taurasi, however, makes it seem like the privilege is all hers. On several occasions she said she's never been on a team that has been both this talented and as unselfish as this squad.

The end result? Taurasi and the Mercury achieving what they were even afraid to talk about at the beginning of the season.

"Champions. We are the champions. That feels so good," Taurasi said with a smile. "I didn't want to say that word all year because you get lost in winning a championship and you forget to do the hard work.

"It feels great to have three. It really does."