On Monday, DeLisha Milton-Jones announced her retirement from the WNBA after playing in 17 of the league’s first 20 seasons. No player has appeared in more WNBA games than Milton-Jones, whose longevity is only matched by the competitive fire that she displayed night in, night out, year in and year out.
But at the age of 42, she has decided to hang up her sneakers and move on to the next chapter of her life. As DeLisha rides off into the sunset, we celebrate her historic career with some impressive numbers.
Milton-Jones ended her career just one game shy of becoming the first WNBA player to appear in 500 games. In August 2015, she played in her 497th WNBA game to surpass the record for the most game played by a WNBA player that was previously held by Tina Thompson. She played in two games after breaking the record to finish her career with 499 games played in 17 seasons. Milton-Jones did not miss a game in eight of her 17 seasons and missed just a single game in two seasons — a testament to both her durability and longevity.
WNBA Career Leaders – Regular Season Games Played
Milton-Jones is a two-time WNBA champion as a member of the Los Angeles Sparks, who won back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002. Led by Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie with Tamecka Dixon running point and Mwadi Mabika and Milton-Jones on the wings, the Sparks were the first team to dethrone the Houston Comets and did so in dominant fashion, posting a near-perfect 12-1 playoff record during those two championship runs. Milton-Jones also teamed up with Leslie on the U.S. Women’s National Team in 2000 and 2008 to gold medals in Sydney and Beijing, respectively.
Despite being a 32.5% career three-point shooter during the regular season, Milton-Jones was among the best outside shooters in the history of the WNBA playoffs, with her 45.9% three-point percentage ranking third among all players that have made at least 10 three-pointers in the playoffs. Milton-Jones shot 39-of-85 from beyond the arc during her playoff career and was even better when the Sparks were in the Finals. Her 57.1% three-point percentage in the championship series ranks second all-time with a minimum of five three-pointers made; she shot 8-of-14 from three during her four WNBA Finals games.
The Los Angeles Sparks selected Milton-Jones with the fourth pick in the 1999 Supplemental Draft, which was used to select players joining the WNBA from the American Basketball League, which folded after two full seasons. Milton-Jones finished her collegiate career at Florida in 1997 and played her first two professional seasons in the ABL before joining the WNBA. Had she joined the W right out of college, her already impressive career numbers would be even greater. Milton-Jones and fellow former ABL star Katie Smith both rank in the top four in career minutes played in the WNBA despite starting their professional careers in another league.
WNBA Career Leaders – Regular Season Minutes Played
Milton-Jones played on five WNBA teams during her 17-year career, with 11 of those seasons coming with the Los Angeles Sparks, including the first six seasons of her career (1999-2004). After spending three seasons with the Washington Mystics (2005-2007), she returned to the Sparks for five more seasons (2008-2012) before playing with San Antonio (2013), New York (2013-2014) and Atlanta (2014-2015) in her final three WNBA seasons.
Milton-Jones is the sixth-leading rebounder in the history of the WNBA with 2,574 boards in her career. The category had been led by Milton-Jones’s longtime Sparks teammate Lisa Leslie until Indiana’s Tamika Catchings passed Leslie in the second-to-last regular season game of her own legendary career. Like Catchings, Milton-Jones stands just 6-foot-1, but used her tenacity and athleticism to secure rebounds against players that were taller and stronger than her inside the paint.
WNBA Career Leaders – Regular Season Rebounds
Rebounds is not the only statistical category that features Milton-Jones in the top 10. She also ranks ninth in career points (5,571), seventh in career field goals made (2,083) and fifth in career steals (619). While she is outside the top 10 in career blocks (15th with 339) and assists (25th with 921), her career averages of 11.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.7 blocks showcase her all-around game. Milton-Jones also ranks ninth in a trio of playoff stats, including minutes (1,668), rebounds (305) and blocks (49), as well as second in playoff steals (73).
WNBA Career Leaders – Regular Season Points
Milton-Jones is a two-time WNBA All-Star and one of only 12 players to play in the All-Star Game for both the Western Conference and Eastern Conference team during their career. Milton-Jones made her All-Star debut for the West in 2000 as a member of the L.A. Sparks and made her second appearance in 2007 for the East as a member of the Washington Mystics. Here are the other 11 players to accomplish the feat:
- Swin Cash – (SEA – 2011, 2009; DET – 2005, 2003)
- Candice Dupree — (PHX – 2014, CHI 2009, 2007, 2006)
- Margo Dydek (CONN – 2006; SA – 2003)
- Becky Hammon (SA – 2011, 2009, 2007; NY – 2006, 2005, 2003)
- Chamique Holdsclaw (LA -2005; WASH – 2003, 2002*, 2001*, 2000, 1999)
- Taj McWilliams-Franklin (LA – 2007; CONN – 2005, 2006; ORL – 1999, 2000, 2001)
- Cappie Pondexter- ( NY 2014, 2013, 2011; PHX 2006, 2007, 2009)
- Katie Smith (DET – 2006; MINN – 2005, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000)
- Dawn Staley (HOU-2006, CHA- 2005, 2003, 2002, 2001)
- Lindsay Whalen (MIN – 2014, 2013; 2011; CON – 2006)
- Natalie Williams (IND -2003; UTAH – 2001*, 2000, 1999)
Milton-Jones and Tina Thompson are the only two players to play in 17 WNBA seasons. Only six other players have played in at least 15 WNBA seasons:
- 17: DeLisha Milton-Jones: Los Angeles, 1999-2004; Washington, 2005-2007; Los Angeles, 2008-2012; San Antonio, 2013; New York, 2013-2014; Atlanta, 2014-2015
- 17: Tina Thompson: Houston, 1997-2008; Los Angeles, 2009-2011; Seattle, 2012-2013
- 16: Becky Hammon: New York, 1999-2006; San Antonio, 2007-2014
- 15: Ticha Penicheiro: Sacramento, 1998-2009; Los Angeles, 2010-11; Chicago, 2012
- 15: Tangela Smith: Sacramento, 1998-2004; Charlotte, 2005-06; Phoenix, 2007-10; Indiana, 2011; San Antonio, 2012
- 15: Katie Smith: Minnesota, 1999-2005; Detroit, 2005- 2009; Washington, 2010; Seattle, 2011-12; New York, 2013
- 15: *Swin Cash: Detroit, 2002-2007; Seattle, 2008-2011; Chicago 2012-2013; Atlanta, 2014; New York, 2014-2016
- 15: *Tamika Catchings: Indiana, 2002-2016
Milton-Jones scored a career-best 38 points during a 99-92 Sparks loss to the Phoenix Mercury on July 17, 2008. During the game, Milton-Jones made a career-best 13 field goals (on 20 attempts) and a career-best five 3-pointers (on a career-high eight attempts) as well as seven free throws (onnine attempts). She also grabbed six rebounds and led the Sparks in assists with four dimes.
Regular Season Career Highs
- Points: 38 (vs. Phoenix – 7/17/2008)
- Rebounds: 14 (3 Times; Most recent: vs. Indiana – 7/01/2007)
- Assists: 7 (2 Times; Most recent: vs. Connecticut – 7/24/2010)
- Steals: 6 (vs. Minnesota – 7/20/2007)
- Blocks: 5 (2 Times; Most recent: vs. Seattle – 7/23/2006)
- Field Goals Made: 13 (vs. Phoenix – 7/17/2008)
- 3-Pointers Made: 5 (vs. Phoenix – 7/17/2008)
- Minutes: 45 (vs. Seattle – 5/30/2003)
During his tenure as head coach of the Sparks, Michael Cooper gave nicknames to many of his top players. Lisa Leslie was known as Smooth; Candace Parker was Silk. But there may not have been a better nickname doled out by Cooper than the one he gave Milton-Jones: Nasty. It was a perfect word to describe the fiery, intense and aggressive way that Milton-Jones approached the game, particularly on the defense. D-Nasty would frustrate opponents on a nightly basis by playing with a tenacity that few could match. And during that time, she set the WNBA record for personal fouls committed with 1,574 and she ranks third all time with 23 disqualifications.
While many of her career marks will be passed by some of the players currently active in the WNBA, her lead in personal fouls is pretty substantial, as she has 177 more than any other player ever and 347 more than the highest active player (Catchings). In a great case of irony, both Milton-Jones and Catchings are two of the nicest people you could meet off the court; Milton-Jones even earned a second nickname of Sunshine for her demeanor outside of the game. But when they step on the floor to compete, they will irritate opponents like few other players the WNBA has ever seen.
WNBA Career Leaders – Regular Season Personal Fouls