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Wright at Home: Tanisha is Storm Fixture
On Sunday, Tanisha Wright did something she's done hundreds of times before and entered a prestigious club in the process. The Storm's win Sunday at Connecticut was the 250th game of Wright's WNBA career, all played for Seattle. That makes her just the 21st player in league history to take the floor 250 times for the same team.
"It says a lot," said teammate Sue Bird, who has shared the backcourt with Wright throughout their eight seasons together. "I think it speaks to her durability. She is dependable. She has become the heart and soul of the team and I think that number shows that."
Indeed, the Storm has been able to count on Wright on a nightly basis throughout her career. She's played in all but three of the Storm's games over the last seven and a half season, and has never missed one due to injury. (Knock on wood.)
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Wright, who arrived in Seattle as a first-round pick in 2005, has become one of the longest tenured WNBA players.
However, reaching 250 games with the same team requires more than just good health and playing through pain. It also demands longevity in a league where player turnover is often the norm. Besides Storm teammates Bird and Lauren Jackson, just three other active players in the league have had longer careers with their original team than Wright - Connecticut's Asjha Jones, Indiana's Tamika Catchings and Phoenix's Diana Taurasi. Wright couldn't have expected that at the outset of her time in Seattle.
"Especially after my first couple of years, absolutely not," she said.
That changed with Head Coach Brian Agler's arrival prior to the 2008 season. Agler saw that Wright was out of position at point guard - where she still backs up Bird - and could handle a larger role at shooting guard. After serving as the Storm's sixth woman in 2008, Wright claimed a starting role in 2009 and has yet to relinquish it.
"I think a lot of players in the league, all it takes is opportunity," she said. "I was definitely one of those players. Yeah, there are people that are going to be more talented than you are, but the only thing a person needs is an opportunity.
"This league is so good and everybody is so committed to their craft that once you get a solid chance to be who you are as a player, you can help a basketball team. It's just a matter of somebody believing in you and giving you that confidence to be able to be yourself."
"She's grown so much," said Bird, who has been able to watch the entire process. "When she came in, she was someone who wasn't a starter, was just kind of coming in as a rookie and fitting in. From there, she's grown into a starter, someone we count on in big moments and someone who kind of sets the tone for our team. She's had to play multiple positions. Whatever we've asked of T, she's delivered."
Twice, Wright has hit free agency. She was restricted after her breakthrough 2008 campaign, and an unrestricted free agent last winter. Neither side saw any reason to make a change when they had that opportunity.
"Obviously, when something fits and when it works, you stay with it," Bird said. "We've been fortunate to have that with the Storm with a few players. I think T and I as guards, we complement each other really well."
From Agler's perspective, Wright's staying power with the Storm franchise goes beyond just basketball.
"It's just a tribute to the type of person she is and her work ethic," he said. "To be a player like this in the league, you've got to not only be a player who's improved your game, you have to be a quality individual and someone who is very team oriented."
For her part, Wright never gave any consideration to leaving the Storm last winter. She made it clear all along that she wanted to stay in Seattle, where she's made herself at home. Wright recognizes how rare it is to spend so long with the same team.
"It's nice to always be able to play for the same team," she said. "Outside of superstars, it's a luxury that you get to do, so it's something that's pretty cool for me. You don't see it outside of that. I'm excited and proud I've spent eight years here."