The WNBA Finals matchup has two star studded teams doing battle, and the league has to be thrilled with the way it turned out. The Phoenix Mercury and the Chicago Sky are in the middle of a best of five series that will award one of them with the ultimate prize. The Finals began on Sunday, with the Sky taking Game 1 on the road by a score of 91-77. With both teams featured some of the game’s best talent, home court may not matter all that much.
Because the rosters are so loaded, it’s hard to hone in on just a few players to focus on. As tough as the exercise was, we’ll look at three of the biggest stars in the WNBA Finals, and reminisce on their brilliant collegiate careers.
Currently locking down the middle of the paint for the Mercury during the Finals, Brittney Griner has been a force in the middle since her days at Nimitz high school. She’s a Texas native, and decided to stay local in college by choosing to play with the Baylor Bears.
Griner didn’t just participate; she absolutely dominated. There are many numbers that support Griner’s case as one of the best women’s(or perhaps in general) college basketball players of all time, but the shot-blocking numbers she posted were eye popping. As a freshman, she led the nation in blocked shots with 223. Not only did she do that in her first year in school; that total was 28 more than the next highest player.
She led the Bears to a national title in 2012, and thoroughly impressed men’s college basketball Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight.
“I saw her score five different baskets on five different moves,” Knight said. Via Vault.Si.com
Candace Parker has had an outstanding WNBA career, and will likely be a fixture in the media for a long time to come after her playing days are over. She routinely sits on the TNT studio show analyzing NBA games next to the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade. Parker was a shooting star since her high school days*.
One of her coolest claims to fame was winning a Slam Dunk competition full of future NBA players. During the festivities surrounding the 2004 McDonald’s All America Game, Parker beat the likes of J.R. Smith, Josh Smith and Rudy Gay by throwing it down with authority. She took her hops to the collegiate level, and became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA game while playing for the University of Tennessee. She led the Volunteers to NCAA titles in 2007 and 2008, playing a brand of basketball not yet seen before in the women’s game.
“Through all of that, Candace has never lost sight of where she’s come from and how hard the road has been go get there. I think she loves this program as much as anyone can,” said former Tennessee women’s basketball head coach Holly Warlick. Via OurTennessee.Edu
No list of WNBA stars is truly complete until Diana Taurasi is mentioned. She’s got the mentality of a Kobe Bryant, and loves to outwork and outcompete anyone that stands in her way. The Mercury were in a see-saw affair against the Las Vegas Aces in the deciding game of the Western Conference Finals last week, and it was Taurasi who took over. She nailed a couple of smooth three pointers down the stretch, which went a long way towards getting Phoenix into their first WNBA Finals since 2014.
There may be no player in the women’s game who’s been as clutch as Taurasi, and that big game mentality was fine-tuned at the University of Connecticut. The Huskies won three national titles with Taurasi as their leader. The Los Angeles native could have stayed local and played with a Pac-12 school, but instead wanted to prove herself at one of pre-eminent basketball programs of all time. She definitely did just that, as the team went 139-8 during her four year career.
“And even on her days off, she would find a way to get a basketball in her hands. And there was probably never a time when she didn’t think about it and she didn’t strategize over something or how do I get better or how do we beat this team or how do I beat that guy,” University of Connecticut women’s head coach Geno Auriemma recalled about Taurasi. Via SI.com