When it comes to women’s basketball, it doesn’t get any better than Diana Taurasi. She wins, she scores and she’s the fiercest competitor out there. Basically, she’s the female equivalent of Kobe Bryant. Averaging 22.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and a career-high 4.7 assists per game (including a 30-point, 10-assist performance on August 1), Taurasi led the WNBA in scoring for a record fourth season, while also managing to become the fastest player in league history to record 4,500 points, 1,000 rebounds and 900 assists for her career (224 games).
So what could go wrong for the league’s reigning MVP? Nothing. After Taurasi indicated earlier this summer that she might take next season off, the seven-year veteran re-signed with the Phoenix Mercury yesterday, right before she leads her squad into the postseason for the second consecutive season and the third time in the last four years. And remember, those last two trips ended with championship trophies.
“My intention is to win a lot of championships in Phoenix,” says Taurasi. “I’m happy to have this contract signed so we can focus on the playoffs and winning another title. We have a great nucleus of players to make a run at the championship this year and I am satisfied knowing the contract we’ve put together will give us the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities in the offseason.”
So while Taurasi’s quest to become just the third team in WNBA history to repeat as champions begins on Thursday, when the Mercury take on the San Antonio Silver Stars, we got up with “Dee” to talk about her legacy, her lifestyle and getting buckets.
Dime: How far do you think the Mercury can go this year? Is anything short of a championship considered a failure?
Diana Taurasi: I think we have the talent to win the whole thing. Our goal from day one has been to repeat as champions. Regardless of what our record is going into the playoffs, once we hit the postseason everyone is 0-0, so that’s the only thing on our minds.
Dime: In your career, what’s meant the most to you: Your NCAA Championships, WNBA titles or Olympic gold medals?
DT: All of them are special. It’s hard to put any one over the other because each is with a different team, in a different season and different path to get there. Obviously, the gold medals are pretty special because you’re representing your entire country. Not just a school or one franchise but the entire United States.
Dime: Will you be playing for Team USA in 2012?
DT: Hopefully. If Coach Auriemma thinks I’m good enough to be on the team. I always want to play for my country.
Dime: Growing up, where did you think basketball would take you?
DT: I never really thought about it. I just played because I loved the game. To this point, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a really good career and do a lot of things that if I didn’t play basketball I wouldn’t have been able to do.
Dime: Do you consider yourself the best player in the world?
DT: I let other people make that judgment. I really just go out there and play hard and try to get better every year. So that’s up for debate I guess.
Dime: What’s the most points you’ve ever scored, any level, in a game?
DT: I scored 61 in a game in high school my freshman year. I think we won in double overtime.
Dime: In July, you dropped 44 points in a loss to the Seattle Storm. What does 44 points mean to you in a loss?
DT: Nothing. I’d rather score four points and get the W. You don’t get points in this game for losing.
Dime: You’ve basically won everything there is to win. What gets you motivated every day?
DT: I just love to play the game. I’m trying to get better every day. As soon as you get satisfied with the last win or the last championship your career will be over real quick. And basketball is the ultimate team game. Being around my teammates and coaches every day really motivates me.
Dime: Who do you compare your game to?
DT: I try to do a little bit of everything on the court. I don’t want to be one dimensional. If one thing isn’t working, I like to have something to fall back on. I’m probably comparable to those guys who have their hands in a lot of plays.
Dime: Who’s the toughest player to guard in the WNBA?
DT: Probably Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream). She’s very athletic and can do a lot of different things on the court.
Dime: What’s the biggest difference between playing in the U.S. and playing overseas?
DT: Obviously the court is different, and the style of play is different. But at the end of the day, basketball is basketball no matter where you play. And all the leagues are so integrated that you see a lot of the same players during the WNBA season as you do overseas.
Dime: What do you do when you’re not playing ball?
DT: I just hang out, try to get some rest. Listen to some music. Nothing too fancy or exciting.
Dime: What’s in the rotation on your iPod?
DT: I haven’t updated it in a while, but right now I have some Mr Hudson. I’m kind of an old school rock person: Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots.
Dime: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
DT: I love to iron.
Dime: Do you ever hoop with men?
DT: I played all my life against men growing up: in high school, college, pickup with guys in training camp. Obviously they are usually bigger, stronger, more athletic, but if you know basketball you don’t have any problems with it.
Dime: Are you a fan of the NBA?
DT: Well, I grew up in L.A. so I’m a huge Lakers fan. I was a bit torn in last year’s Western Conference Finals because I had to pull a bit for my Suns guys: Steve [Nash], Grant [Hill], J-Rich. But at the end of the day, L.A. is home and I’m a diehard Lakers fan.
Dime: When will the UConn women lose a game?
DT: When Coach Auriemma retires.
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