Picking the top 25 players in WNBA history for the 25-year anniversary of the league is an exercise that is equal parts fun and difficult. How should we rank players such as four-time champion Cynthia Cooper, who was 34 when the league began in 1997 and played only a few seasons, against someone like Breanna Stewart, who at 27 already has two titles and grew up with the WNBA as a goal?
Our ranking -- based strictly on the players' on-court performance -- includes past greats such as Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes, as well as 10 currently active players. Seven of those 10 active players are on teams that advanced to the 2021 WNBA playoffs.
This debate has been percolating all season among the WNBA fan base, with a wide variety of credible and passionately held opinions. Same goes for our panel of voters: ESPN/ABC analysts Rebecca Lobo and LaChina Robinson and play-by-play broadcaster Pam Ward; ESPN writers Katie Barnes, Kelly Cohen, Kevin Pelton and Mechelle Voepel; The Undefeated's Sean Hurd; and ESPN senior editor Melanie Jackson.
Earlier this month, the WNBA released its "The W25," as voted on by a panel of media and women's basketball pioneers/advocates. Our ranking, which puts the players in order, includes 23 of the same players. So which player is the GOAT of the WNBA? (Each panelist submitted a 1-25 ranking; a first-place vote was awarded 25 points, second place was 24 points, and so on.)
See more: Experts pick snubs, more
1. Diana Taurasi
G | Phoenix Mercury (2004-present)Career stats: 19.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.3 APG
Highlights (four first-place votes): Three championships (2007, 2009, 2014); MVP (2009); two-time Finals MVP (2009, 2014); all-time leading scorer (only player over 9,000 points); five-time scoring champ; 10-time All-WNBA First Team
Taurasi hasn't won the most championships, and she hasn't won the most MVPs. But it is her consistent offensive greatness and her longevity that set her apart from her peers. Others have been "better" over specific stretches or had stronger concentrations of dominance, but what makes Taurasi special is that she has been one of the top performers for a long time. Her first All-WNBA honor was in 2004, her rookie season. Her most recent came 16 years later in 2020. Taurasi has the highest offensive win share total, by orders of magnitude. She tops the list with 60.49; in second is Sue Bird, with 42.06.
Yes, she has been the league's scoring champ multiple times, but she has also been in the top five nine times. With the game on the line (and honestly, maybe even my life), I would pick Taurasi to take the shot 10 out of 10 times. She's the best ever, and for me, it's not particularly close. -- Katie Barnes
2. Tamika Catchings
F | Indiana Fever (2002-16)Career stats: 16.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.4 SPG
Highlights (three first-place votes): One championship (2012); MVP (2011); Finals MVP (2012); only player in WNBA history to rank in career top 10 in steals (first), points (third), rebounds (fourth) and assists (eighth); five-time Defensive Player of the Year; seven-time All-WNBA First Team
Diana Taurasi is the best offensive player in WNBA history (and No. 1 badass). But Catchings is the most complete basketball player I have ever seen. She remains the only player in the league to ever finish a season in the top 10 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks -- and do it twice. She led the Fever to the playoffs for 12 consecutive seasons; even without a lottery pick, the Fever were in the hunt every year.
No one played harder than Catchings from the first whistle to the final buzzer, and that was never more evident than in what turned out to be the final game of her WNBA career. I called that last game -- an Indiana loss at home to Phoenix in the playoffs. There might have been 30 seconds left, and the Fever were subbing out Catchings so she could get one last standing ovation. Catchings waved them off. She wasn't coming out of the game. She didn't need the spotlight or a final curtain call. She played her butt off until the final buzzer. Catchings was the consummate basketball player and professional. -- Pam Ward
3. Cynthia Cooper
G | Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2003)Career stats: 21.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 45.9 FG%
Highlights: Four championships (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000); two-time MVP (1997, 1998); four-time Finals MVP (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000); all-time leader in career scoring average (20.98 PPG); three-time scoring champion; four-time All-WNBA First Team
She's one of the greatest scorers in the history of the league, and brought the high-level pick-and-roll to the WNBA. When my team, the New York Liberty, played the Houston Comets in the 1999 WNBA Finals, our shootaround the morning before Game 1 at Madison Square Garden lasted forever: a couple hours of shootaround, a couple hours for the film session. We were focusing on how to limit Houston's "C" Action (what the Comets called their wing pick-and-roll). They still beat us. Coop scored 29 points. It didn't matter how much we schemed for her. She could create off the dribble, score inside over bigger players and was a willing passer.
Her stats put her among the all-time best, but her impact on professional women's basketball went beyond numbers. She changed the way the women's game was played and what it meant to play her position. Coop, who was 34 when she joined the WNBA, came in with a refined game because she had been playing overseas for so many years. When you combined her skills, her mental game, what she'd learned and how she was able to read situations coming off the pick-and-roll or in a half-court offense, she was unstoppable. -- Rebecca Lobo
4. Maya Moore
F | Minnesota Lynx (2011-18)Career stats: 18.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 45.3 FG%
Highlights (one first-place vote): Four championships (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017); MVP (2014); Finals MVP (2013); Rookie of the Year (2011); one-time scoring champion; five-time All-WNBA First Team; two-time all-defensive team
As the No. 1 pick in 2011, Moore entered the league with unthinkable expectations. By her eighth season, she had exceeded all of them. Moore would become a face of the WNBA, one of the most prolific all-around players in the league and the star of a Minnesota Lynx franchise that won four of its six WNBA Finals appearances in a seven-year span. To see such greatness in a player like Moore, and to watch that greatness begin to peak, it remains difficult to accept the fact that we may never see her hit another clutch shot or make another run at a title.
A large portion of Moore's WNBA GOAT résumé could remain unwritten. Had Moore, who left the game in 2019 to focus on criminal justice reform, added three more WNBA seasons in her prime and who knows how many accolades, she'd likely top this list. For many, she already does. -- Sean Hurd
5. Lisa Leslie
C | Los Angeles Sparks (1997-2009)Career stats: 17.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 47.0 FG%
Highlights: Two championships (2001, 2002); three-time MVP (2001, 2004, 2006); two-time Finals MVP (2001, 2002); ninth all time in scoring, fifth in rebounds, second in blocks; three-time rebounding champion; two-time Defensive Player of the Year; first to dunk in the WNBA; eight-time All-WNBA First Team; three-time all-defensive team
In March 1994, Leslie's USC team lost in the Elite Eight, ending her college career without a trip to the Final Four. In June, she and Team USA took bronze at the World Championships. She wouldn't turn 22 until that July, but where was her basketball career headed? To the Hall of Fame. Leslie was part of the Dream Team that won at the 1996 Atlanta Games, her first of four Olympic gold medals, and then was an original WNBA player with Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo.
Assigned to her hometown team in Los Angeles, Leslie was a fearsome defender, a go-to scorer and as talented a center as women's hoops has seen. -- Mechelle Voepel
6. Sheryl Swoopes
F/G | Houston Comets (1997-2007); Seattle Storm (2008); Tulsa Shock (2011)Career stats: 15.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.0 SPG
Highlights (one first-place vote): Four championships (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000); three-time MVP (2000, 2002, 2005); three-time Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2002, 2003); two-time scoring champion and steals champion; five-time All-WNBA First Team; two-time all-defensive team
When you're talking about the GOAT, there are some areas that can't be ignored: the defensive end of the floor, championships and a player's impact when it comes to on-court history. Swoopes checks all the boxes. She played with tenacity and relentlessness on both ends of the floor and is the first player in WNBA and NBA history to win three MVP awards and three DPOY awards, which speaks to her versatility on all 94 feet of the court.
Historically speaking, she became the first to record a triple-double, and was also the first to have won an NCAA championship, a WNBA title and an Olympic gold medal, and that trifecta in our sport is the mark of excellence. Swoopes set the mark for everyone else, in every aspect of the game: from defense to offense, to marketing (she was the first to have a signature shoe), to building the league as one of its foundational pieces. For a very long time, when people thought about the WNBA, they thought about Sheryl Swoopes. She is synonymous with the league. Swoopes there it is.
-- LaChina Robinson
7. Lauren Jackson
F | Seattle Storm (2001-12)Career stats: 18.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.4 APG, 46.0 FG%
Highlights: Two championships (2004, 2010); three-time MVP (2003, 2007, 2010); Finals MVP (2010); 10th all time in scoring, fifth in blocks; three-time scoring champion; one-time rebounding champion; Defensive Player of the Year (2007); seven-time All-WNBA First Team; five-time all-defensive team
Lauren Jackson is one of the most transformative players to ever set foot in the WNBA. Her run of dominance from 2003-2010 was incredible: two championships, three MVPs, seven first-team All-WNBA nods, two first-team all-defensive honors and a Defensive Player of the Year Award. During that stretch, she led the league in offensive win shares six times and was top 10 in defensive win shares five times. Her win share total is second all time. Her career player efficiency rating is third all time, and she holds the record for the top two seasons ever. Complete dominance. -- Katie Barnes
8. Sue Bird
G | Seattle Storm (2002-present)Career stats: 12.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 5.6 APG
Highlights: Four championships (2004, 2010, 2018, 2020); Commissioner's Cup champion (2021); career assists leader; seventh all time in scoring, fourth in steals, seventh in field goals made, second in 3-pointers made; first player in WNBA history to win titles in three different decades; three-time assists champion; five-time All-WNBA First Team
Sue Bird has played in and started more WNBA games than anyone in league history, by a wide margin. And in that time, she has solidified herself as one of the greatest point guards to ever pick up a basketball. She has been the starting point guard for all four of Seattle's championships. She has played 18 seasons, and she's not washed! She's still contributing at a high level, and proving night in and night out why she deserves to be on this list. She's an active legend with her own mythology (please see "Masked Bird"), and that's pretty special. -- Katie Barnes
9. Candace Parker
F/C | Los Angeles Sparks (2008-20); Chicago Sky (2021-present)Career stats: 16.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.6 BPG, 48.1 FG%
Highlights: One championship (2016); two-time MVP (2008, 2013); Finals MVP (2016); Rookie of the Year (2008); seventh all time in rebounds, sixth in blocks, seventh in field goal percentage; three-time rebounding champion; Defensive Player of the Year (2020); six-time All-WNBA First Team; two-time all-defensive team
Parker's impact upon entering the league was immediate: she's the only player in WNBA history to sweep MVP and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. She can play any position on the floor, and defines beautiful basketball, with the ability to slash to the basket, dominate at the rim or step back and hit from distance. Even in her 14th season, she remains one of the faces of the WNBA, also becoming the first woman ever to grace the cover of an NBA 2K game. -- Kelly Cohen
10. Sylvia Fowles
C | Chicago Sky (2008-14); Minnesota Lynx (2015-present)Career stats: 15.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 59.7 FG%
Highlights: Two championships (2015, 2017); MVP (2017); two-time Finals MVP (2015, 2017); career leader in rebounds, defensive rebounds and field goal percentage, fourth all time in blocks; three-time Defensive Player of the Year; three-time All-WNBA First Team; nine-time all-defensive team
One of 10 active players on our list, Fowles also is the league's all-time leader in double-doubles and top five in win shares. After establishing herself as a perennial frontcourt force with the Chicago Sky, she turned an already great Minnesota team into a juggernaut, becoming the top scorer and rebounder in the 2017 championship season. A large part of Fowles' greatness stems from her longevity: She has demonstrated a level of consistent dominance throughout her career. This season, in Year 14, she posted a 20-20 game, is a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year and is in the MVP conversation. I repeat, Year 14. What Fowles has done and continues to do on the court as the greatest center of her generation is incredible. -- Sean Hurd
11. Elena Delle Donne
F/G | Chicago Sky (2013-16); Washington Mystics (2017-present)Career stats: 20.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.6 BPG, 93.9 FT%
Highlights: One championship (2019); two-time MVP (2015, 2019); Rookie of the Year (2013); only 50-40-90 season in WNBA history (2019); career leader in free throw percentage; one-time scoring champion; four-time All-WNBA First Team
There's nobody in WNBA history quite like Delle Donne, who combines the size of a post player (6-foot-5) with as accurate shooting as we've ever seen. In 2019, Delle Donne submitted the first 50-40-90 campaign in league history, making 43% of her 3s and missing just three of 117 free throws. She was rewarded with her second MVP as she led the Mystics to an elusive championship after a pair of finals losses in Washington and Chicago. Although Delle Donne, 32, has played just two games since then, she has already put together one of the W's best careers. -- Kevin Pelton
12. Breanna Stewart
F | Seattle Storm (2016-present)Career stats: 20.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.6 BPG, 47.3 FG%
Highlights: Two championships (2018, 2020); MVP (2018); two-time Finals MVP (2018, 2020); Rookie of the Year (2016); Commissioner's Cup champion (2021); Commissioner's Cup MVP (2021); two-time All-WNBA First Team; two-time all-defensive team
Years down the road, Stewie is the one player on this list who could challenge Taurasi for No. 1. She could be the greatest of all time. The only thing keeping Stewart from being higher on the list now is years of experience. She is an unstoppable force offensively, and defensively she impacts the game in a bigger way than ever appears in a stat sheet. With her 7-foot-1 wingspan and the amount of space she can cover, she alters shots and passes. Offensively, she can beat everybody down the floor, catch a tough pass in stride and finish, or hit a 3-pointer.
What's most impressive about Stewie is that she just takes over when she needs to. The WNBA Finals last year in the bubble is a prime example. Her efficiency was off the charts. She can play at a level that other people can't match, even when they're at their best. And somehow, she gets better every year. -- Rebecca Lobo
13. Yolanda Griffith
C/F | Sacramento Monarchs (1999-2007), Seattle Storm (2008); Indiana Fever (2009)Career stats: 13.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 50.1 FG%
Highlights: One championship (2005); MVP (1999); Finals MVP (2005); Defensive Player of the Year (1999); two-time rebounding champion; two-time All-WNBA First Team; two-time all-defensive team
Initially intending to play for Iowa when C. Vivian Stringer coached there, Griffith had a daughter and took another scholastic route: through junior college and Division II. After playing overseas and in the short-lived ABL, she headed into the 1999 WNBA draft at age 29 still not well-known as a superstar. That would all change.
Selected No. 2 by Sacramento, Griffith took the league by storm in her first season, winning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors. A 6-foot-4 center who seemed to grab every rebound anywhere near her, she averaged a double-double in each of her first three WNBA seasons, and reached her pinnacle with the Monarchs by winning the 2005 WNBA championship and being named Finals MVP. -- Mechelle Voepel
14. Seimone Augustus
G/F | Minnesota Lynx (2006-19); Los Angeles Sparks (2020)Career stats: 15.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG; 2.3 APG; 48.0 FG%
Highlights: Four championships (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017); Finals MVP (2011); Rookie of the Year (2006); tied for 10th all time in scoring; one-time All-WNBA First Team
Augustus will cross you up and pull up on a dime, and it is just so smooth you can't help but admire it. For much of her career, she wasn't statistically dominant, but it's important to remember that she was part of those Minnesota teams that won four championships in seven years. I think it's fair to say that if she hadn't been on the same team as Maya Moore during her prime, Augustus' stats would have looked different. And that's not to say she underachieved. Far from it! In addition to everything else, she's an eight-time All-Star. Money. -- Katie Barnes
15. Tina Thompson
F | Houston Comets (1997-2008); Los Angeles Sparks (2009-11); Seattle Storm (2012-13)Career stats: 15.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG
Highlights: Four championships (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000); second all time in scoring, fifth in 3-pointers made; three-time All-WNBA First Team
She's one of those players who might be underappreciated by those who didn't grow up watching her or didn't play against her. She was the player I least enjoyed going up against during my WNBA career. I was never more sore after a game than after I played against Tina. She was so difficult to defend on the perimeter, especially in the pick-and-pop. She was a bruising, strong force who rebounded and finished inside, and also was physical defensively. She could impose her will and her physicality on a game. As good as Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes were, and as good as the other players around them were, I don't know if Houston wins those championships if not for the toughness and winning mentality that Tina brought.
I played with the Comets for one season with Tina as my teammate. She was an SOB (said with affection). You need players like that on your team. There were days when Van Chancellor would say practice was over. But if Tina's team lost the last scrimmage or drill, she would insist we run it back. Basically, practice didn't end until she said it ended and her team finished with a victory. She was great in the locker room. It was always about winning with her, in all the right ways. -- Rebecca Lobo
16. Katie Smith
G | Minnesota Lynx (1999-2005); Detroit Shock (2005-2009); Washington Mystics (2010); Seattle Storm (2011-12); New York Liberty (2013)Career stats: 13.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.6 APG
Highlights: Two championships (2006, 2008); Finals MVP (2008); third all time in 3-pointers made, eighth all time in scoring; one-time scoring champion; two-time All-WNBA First Team; one-time all-defensive team
After winning two ABL titles in Columbus, where she previously had starred at Ohio State, Smith was allocated to the new Minnesota WNBA franchise in 1999. With the Lynx, she was best known as a scorer. Traded during the 2005 season to Detroit, Smith embraced what Shock coach Bill Laimbeer asked of her: Take over at point guard and get in the best shape of your life. Smith helped lead Detroit to three consecutive trips to the WNBA Finals and two WNBA titles. She is the only one in the top 15 scorers in WNBA history who played in the ABL first. At 5-foot-11, she also had the physicality and mindset to be one of the league's best defenders, guarding interior and perimeter players equally well. -- Mechelle Voepel
17. Brittney Griner
C | Phoenix Mercury (2013-present)Career stats: 17.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.8 BPG; 56.0 FG%
Highlights: One championship (2014); third all time in blocks; all-time leader in career blocks average; two-time scoring champion; eight-time blocks champion; career dunks leader; two-time Defensive Player of the Year; two-time All-WNBA First Team; six-time all-defensive team
At 6-foot-9 and possessing incredible athleticism, Griner has helped elevate the WNBA, and her presence on the court is both inspiring and intimidating. She can dominate the game at both ends, particularly on defense, where she's a disruptive shot blocker and one of the best rim protectors in league history. This season, Griner has dunked five times, and she has 19 of the 27 slams in WNBA history. Off the court, she's also making an impact. In 2013, she became the first openly gay athlete to sign a contract with Nike, and has since helped to elevate the LGBTQ+ community in sports. -- Kelly Cohen
18. Tina Charles
C | Connecticut Sun (2010-13); New York Liberty (2014-19); Washington Mystics (2020-present)Career stats: 18.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.2 APG
Highlights: MVP (2012); Rookie of the Year (2010); second all time in rebounds, sixth all time in scoring; two-time scoring champion; four-time rebounding champion; five-time All-WNBA First Team; four-time all-defensive team
A WNBA title is the only accolade missing on Charles' résumé. She is a defender's nightmare, able to shoot from anywhere. And in her 11th season, she averaged a career-high and league-leading 23.4 PPG. That ranks as the sixth-highest average in league history. An incredible rebounder and one of the most dominating players inside, Charles is impossible to box out or outmuscle on the glass. She is one of those silent-but-deadly players who's constantly walking the walk of a professional athlete. -- Kelly Cohen
19. Lindsay Whalen
G | Connecticut Sun (2004-09); Minnesota Lynx (2010-18)Career stats: 11.5 PPG; 4.9 APG, 3.8 RPG; 46.1 FG%
Highlights: Four championships (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017); third all time in assists; three-time assists champion; three-time All-WNBA First Team
No WNBA player saw action in more wins than Whalen, whose teams went 308-144 (.681) in her career. After being drafted No. 4 overall, Whalen helped the Sun to back-to-back Finals trips her first two seasons. Whalen's greatest success came after a trade that sent her home to Minnesota. She made four of her five All-Star appearances after the deal as the Lynx won four titles and reached the Finals two other times. Capable of doing it all as a point guard, Whalen finished her 15-year career third in league history in assists and 19th in scoring. -- Kevin Pelton
20. Angel McCoughtry
F/G | Atlanta Dream (2009-19); Las Vegas Aces (2020-present)Career stats: 18.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.0 SPG
Highlights: Rookie of the Year (2009); eighth all time in steals; two-time scoring champion and steals champion; two-time All-WNBA First Team; seven-time all-league defensive team
Despite impressive play during the regular season -- she's eighth in career steals and 15th in career scoring, producing six All-WNBA appearances -- McCoughtry has been at her best in the playoffs. McCoughtry's dominant postseason runs led the Dream, who went 4-30 as an expansion team before drafting her No. 1 overall, to three Finals appearances in four years without another All-WNBA contributor as a teammate. A championship would complete McCoughtry's résumé. She played a key role in Las Vegas reaching the Finals last year, only to lose again. She has been sidelined this season by an ACL tear. -- Kevin Pelton
21. Cappie Pondexter
G | Phoenix Mercury (2006-09); New York Liberty (2010-14); Chicago Sky (2015-17); Los Angeles Sparks/Indiana Fever (2018)Career stats: 16.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.8 APG
Highlights: Two championships (2007, 2009); Finals MVP (2007); fifth all time in scoring, seventh all time in assists; three-time All-WNBA First Team
Pondexter made an impact on the WNBA the moment she stepped on the court in 2006, putting together one of the best rookie seasons in league history. She became the fastest player to reach 3,000 points, 1,000 assists and 200 steals -- a record just broken this season. When Pondexter was at her best, she was one of the most electric players, fiercest competitors and dominant scorers in the league who delivered some incredible postseason runs. Her contributions to the league, both on and off the court, are immense. -- Sean Hurd
22. Nneka Ogwumike
F | Los Angeles Sparks (2012-present)Career stats: 16.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 55.1 FG%
Highlights: One championship (2016); MVP (2016); Rookie of the Year (2012); fifth in career shooting percentage; one-time All-WNBA First Team; five-time all-league defensive team
Part of one of the WNBA's premier duos with Candace Parker, Ogwumike managed to take top billing in 2016 when she won MVP, thanks to the most efficient season in league history: 19.7 PPG on 66.5% shooting witha .737 true shooting percentage. Ogwumike then capped the season with the winning putback in the final seconds of the winner-take-all Game 5 of the WNBA Finals to win the Sparks their first title since 2002. Off the court, Ogwumike has made equal impact as president of the WNBA players association, negotiating a landmark CBA in 2019. -- Kevin Pelton
23. Becky Hammon
G | New York Liberty (1999-2006); San Antonio (2007-14)Career stats: 13.0 PPG, 3.8 APG; 37.8 3FG%
Highlights: Fourth all time in 3-pointers made, sixth in assists; led league in assists (2007); two-time All-WNBA First Team
At many points throughout her career, Becky was told she was too short or too slow. But the 5-foot-6 former guard is the embodiment of perseverance and work ethic. Undrafted in 1999 (that draft included an influx of veterans after the ABL folded), she had to work hard to diversify her game. As her skill set and body matured, she proved everybody wrong. After starting just 19 games in her first five seasons, she energized New York and then became the face of the franchise in San Antonio, making four total WNBA Finals appearances.
She played with incredible poise, shot NBA-range 3-pointers and was unpredictable with the ball in her hands and always found a way to get her shot off. Hammon went from barely being recruited to play Division I basketball and undrafted in the WNBA to what I believe will be a Hall of Fame career. And she earned every damn thing she has accomplished. -- Pam Ward
24. Rebekkah Brunson
F | Sacramento Monarchs (2004-09); Minnesota Lynx (2010-18)Career stats: 9.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 46.6 FG%
Highlights: Five championships (2005, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017); third all time in rebounds; seven-time all-defensive team
Ultimately, you play to win games and to win championships, and no one has won more titles than Brunson. We often talk about what a luxury it is to have a big player at the 4, who is versatile enough to switch defensively onto perimeter players. She was one of the first who could do that in a lock-down way. But she impacted the game far beyond scoring. Brunson often did the dirty work -- defense, rebounding, keeping balls alive -- seemingly without needing any of the glory or needing to get touches on offense. She got her shots off offensive rebounds. She set screens to get Sylvia Fowles open looks. She jumped out and made a guard's life hell.
She did things that allowed Seimone Augustus to conserve some defensive energy because she was so important offensively. Brunson did all of those things so that her team could be successful. She reminds me of Teresa Weatherspoon -- another player who belongs on this list -- in that Brunson probably could have been a more prolific scorer, but that's not what her teams needed from her. It was all about winning, encouraging and impacting every possession. -- Rebecca Lobo
25. Penny Taylor
F | Cleveland Rockers (2001-03); Phoenix Mercury (2004-2016)Career stats: 13.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.6 APG, 46.6 FG%
Highlights: Three championships (2007, 2009, 2014); one-time All-WNBA First Team
Second only to Lauren Jackson among the best Australian players in WNBA history, Taylor was a draft-day steal at No. 11 in 2001, where Jackson was No. 1. After three seasons with Cleveland, she was the top pick by Phoenix in the 2004 dispersal draft, the same year future wife Taurasi was taken No. 1 by the Mercury in the regular draft. Taylor tended to be overshadowed, but Phoenix wouldn't have won its three titles without her.
In 2007, she was second on the team in scoring and rebounding, and first in steals and field goal percentage. Injury limited her to 14 regular-season games in 2009, but she was the Mercury's super-sub off the bench in the playoffs. And in 2014, a starter again, Taylor averaged 11.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals in the playoffs. -- Mechelle Voepel
Also receiving votes: Swin Cash, Candice Dupree, Chamique Holdsclaw, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Deanna Nolan, Ticha Penicheiro, Dawn Staley, Courtney Vandersloot, Teresa Weatherspoon, A'ja Wilson