Members of the WNBA Top 20@20 — the league’s list of the 20 greatest and most influential players in its history — have gathered in Minneapolis for the WNBA Finals, set to be honored during a halftime ceremony during Game 1.
WNBA.com took a five-question survey to the legends to hear their thoughts on this year’s Finals, the WNBA’s 20th anniversary and the future of the league.
TOP 20@20: 20th Season | Finals Predictions | Favorite Current Players | Reunion Day
How Does It Feel to Be Surrounded By So Many Great Players?
Tina Thompson: It’s kind of like a reunion of sorts. But we all pretty much see each other quite often because we’re still moving in the same circles. It’s probably been a while since we’ve all been together at one time.
Lisa Leslie: It’s really refreshing. Being removed from the game and not being competitors, there’s so much love and respect. We get to just laugh and joke. There’s no pressure — we don’t have to get ready to go play, we don’t have to have our mean face on. And I love that. … We competed so much that you have to keep your distance and stay within your team. So this has been great. We had dinner last night, laughed, stayed up way too late having a good time and just reminiscing.
Cynthia Cooper: It’s great. I haven’t seen a few of them in a while. We started talking about pickup games… Only the younger players want to go up and down, the older players only want to play half court.
Teresa Weatherspoon: Let me tell you something: Nothing about these young ladies has changed — nothing. That competitive desire is still in there because we’re like, “We can still go full court… Or lets just take it half court, then we kind of relax.
It’s just so great to be around everybody, to see what everybody is doing and how well everybody is doing. And then just to talk about the fun that we had in the beginning to when we all decided to go our separate ways and how much fun we had competing against each other. But most importantly to make our game known, we knew how important that was and how huge a responsibility it was for us.
Sheryl Swoopes: It makes me f eel good to think I had a little bit to do with it, being the first player to sign and still being around. I’m very proud of what I’ve done and what every single woman in this room has done and continues to still do for the league. I don’t think it’s just up to the current players to help the league grow. I think it’s up to current and former players to promote the league so the league will be around for another 20 years.
Ticha Penicheiro: I was just telling Lisa Leslie, I haven’t seen her in forever but with social media you feel like you know what people are doing. … I can’t believe it’s been 20 years.
Swin Cash: When I look around the room, and finishing up my career now, there’s players in this room that I looked up to when the WNBA first started, there’s players that I’ve played against and played alongside and won championships with, won gold medals with. Now to think that you’re a part of this elite group is pretty awesome.
Cappie Pondexter: I grew up watching all of the women in this room pretty much since the inception of the WNBA in 1997. So to be a part of that history, it feels good to know that my hard work has paid off. But at the same time, it seems like not even real. In my eyes, they’re legends.
It’s so weird [being an active player] because I feel like, “Man, is my time coming up soon?” I’m like, “Alright, I think I still have five good years left in me.”
Becky Hammon: This is really a special group because it’s a pioneering group. Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Teresa Weatherspoon — I mean, those are the people in 1997 when I was in college that I was watching. Then you fast forward to when I was playing at the end of my career and I was playing with girls that were in fourth and fifth grade watching me play as a professional. So it’s kind of cool to kind of see the full circle.
But I’m really appreciative to have been able to play with that old-school players. There was a certain camaraderie, there was just so much excitement just to be able to play in the States and not have to go overseas. And I think that was really special and hopefully the younger players today realize what a special opportunity it is to play here and keep it growing.