It began with little fanfare, but has since grown into its own and is now one of the most recognisable women’s sporting leagues in the world.
Today marks the 17th anniversary of the Women’s National Basketball Association and with the most anticipated season on its way on May 24, highlighted by the debut of number one lottery pick Brittney Griner, there promises to be several highlights in store.
But the other 16 seasons have provided us with many highlights and moments. Beginning with Lisa Leslie’s infamous dunk in 2002.
Lisa Leslie with the one-hand slam in 2002.
She got the ball in transition. The crowd roaring her on. Lisa Leslie had one thing on her mind.
The Los Angeles Sparks forward made WNBA history by becoming the first woman to dunk in a game. Her dunk paved the way for players like Griner and Australia’s Liz Cambage, who have also dunked, in game.
The Houston takeover.
For the first four seasons, the Houston Comets were the WNBA’s premier side, winning the championship when most had predicted for the heavily publicised Sparks to get the championship ball rolling.
From 1997 until 2000, the Comets reigned supreme until their marquee performer, four-time WNBA Finals MVP Cynthia Cooper announced her retirement and thus the Comets dynasty came to an end.
During their time at the top, Houston posted a total overall record of 98-24 [16-3 playoffs] and were the first women’s team to have been invited to the White House.
Cooper was named one of the WNBA’s 15 best ever players.
Taurasi breaks records with 47 points, followed by Jackson.
Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi is known as one of women’s basketball’s greatest ever players.
In 2006, Taurasi’s Mercury, known for being one of the most attacking minded teams in the league needed three overtime periods to defeat the Houston Comets. Taurasi, of course, at the heart of it all.
A year later, Australian forward Lauren Jackson equaled Taurasi’s effort of 47 points, but it ultimately came to nothing as the Washington Mystics edged Jackson’s Seattle Storm 97-96 after overtime.
Russia’s Elena Baranova began the international trend by becoming the first non-American WNBA player and since then, there has been an influx of international talent.
From Australia’s Lauren Jackson to Latvia’s Anete Jekabsone-Zogota. Belgium’s Ann Wauters to the late Margo Dydek of Poland, who at 7’2 was the tallest player to compete in the league, the WNBA has had its share of talent from abroad.
Many have gone on to win several MVP awards, WNBA titles and receive All-Star places. Jackson is the WNBA’s most decorated international player with eight All-Star appearances, two championships and three MVP awards. Portugal’s Ticha Penicheiro has four All-Star appearances and a WNBA title to her name.
Three to see in 2013.
What next for the WNBA? Here’s a behind the scenes look at the top three picks of this year’s draft.