Penny Taylor’s retirement announcement came as a surprise, as the Phoenix Mercury and Australian Women’s National Team guard is still playing at a high level at age 35, averaging 13.3 points per game for a Mercury franchise she’s starred on since 2004.
Still, her decision comes at an interesting time, as her Australian National Team is widely regarded as the greatest adversary to Team USA’s sixth consecutive gold medal in this year’s Olympics in Rio.
Taylor won silver medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics as well as being named MVP of the 2006 World Championships – the three-time WNBA champion is only missing a gold medal from her remarkable resume. What would it mean to get it this summer in Rio?
“It’d be everything, that’s the ultimate goal,” Taylor explained after Australia’s 104-89 loss against the United States at Madison Square Garden. “Growing up, we didn’t have the WNBA and Europe, so for me, this was the ultimate goal always and it still is.”
After missing the 2012 Olympics due to a torn ACL that kept her out of action for 15 months, Taylor has had a long, difficult journey back to this grand stage. She hasn’t taken it for granted, just as she isn’t taking anything for granted in her final Olympic run, noting that this one has a special significance for her career.
“It feels really special,” Taylor noted. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get back here to make sure that I’m healthy and to be at the level I want to be at. I’m a little emotional about it, really proud and I’m really thankful for all the people who helped me get back here.”
Fellow Phoenix Mercury teammate and Team USA guard Diana Taurasi had nothing but glowing things to say about Taylor’s impact on basketball in the WNBA and Australia, but also about the type of person she is on and off the court.
“She has done so much in her career and when people finally get a chance to see her resume, how much she’s done for the WNBA, for the Phoenix Mercury – we don’t win any of those championships without her – there’s a reason why when she’s on the court, she always wins,” Taurasi said. “Everyone knows how good she is as a basketball player, but she’s always been the best teammate, the most unselfish teammate.”
Nothing that Taurasi could have said would have been higher praise for her teammate of 10 seasons.
“She’s going to go down as one of the best players ever – not just in Australia – ever. The one thing with Penny is that her peers respect her more than anyone else. If you ask any person on [Team USA] and around the world, no one wants to play against Penny.”
She’s drawn the adoration of fans worldwide and the admiration of teammates and opponents alike. Now, Taylor will seek to carry the Australian National Team to a gold medal in Rio in the coming weeks. The tune-up exhibition games are over and now the real work begins for Penny as she hopes to ride off into the sunset as the ultimate winner and a hero back home.