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Announcing “The W25” and determining the WNBA’s all-time GOAT

Sep 5, 2021

By Tamryn Spruill

In celebrating the WNBA’s 25th season, the league on Sunday (Sept. 5) revealed during halftime of the hotly-awaited matchup between the Las Vegas Aces and the Chicago Sky (ABC) “The W25” — or the 25 best players in the league’s storied history.

The depths of talent across the league’s quarter-century history made choosing the top 25 players a difficult task. To make it easier, the league compiled a list of athletes who played at least two seasons in the WNBA and met at least four of seven criteria. From that list of 72 candidates, the WNBA employed the help of voters from the world of women’s hoops, including players and media members, who were instructed to shave the list to 25. The league tallied the numbers on the Official “W25” Ballot to reveal the top 25 players in league history.

Tamika Catchings, the WNBA’s all-time leader in steals (with no former or current player in the stratosphere of her 1,074 steals) and vice president/general manager of the Indiana Fever, made the coveted list. “I’m extremely honored to be included in such an amazing group of 25 trailblazers,” Catchings said, of the recognition. “And I’m thankful to have had an opportunity to be a part of the growth and strength of our league from both sides – as a player and as an executive. The momentum continues to grow because of those players who came before us and the players of today who continue to push this league to greater heights, paving the road for future generations.”

Among the current players to be named among “The W25” is Nneka Ogwumike, whose greatness has long been overlooked. “I am so grateful to have my name listed amongst past and present legends who’ve pioneered the W over these amazing 25 years,” Ogwumike said. “As an athlete on the court, I’m proud of my career and hope to continue to leave a legacy of greatness. What I’ve been able to contribute to the game along with the phenomenal women of this league through generations is one of my greatest accomplishments. Being recognized for any impact I’ve made is a true honor.”

Nneka Ogwumike’s “Legacy of Greatness”

Members of “The W25” 

Player WNBA Team 
Seimone Augustus    Minnesota Lynx (2006-19), Los Angeles Sparks (2020)
A four-time champion with the Lynx, Augustus was an eight-time All-Star selection, five-time All-WNBA pick, Finals MVP and WNBA Rookie of the Year. She scored 6,005 points (15.4 ppg) over 391 regular-season games. Augustus is currently an assistant coach with the Sparks.

 

Sue Bird*   Seattle Storm (2002-present)
The WNBA’s career leader in assists and games played also holds the record for most All-Star Game selections (12). A four-time champion with the Storm, Bird also is an eight-time All-WNBA pick and three-time Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner.

 

Swin Cash Detroit Shock (2002-07), Seattle Storm (2008-11), Chicago Sky (2012-13), Atlanta Dream (2014), New York Liberty (2014-16)
The three-time champion (twice with the Shock and once with the Storm) was a four-time All-Star and two-time All-WNBA pick. Cash also was an All-Defensive choice and Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner.

 

Tamika Catchings   Indiana Fever (2002-16)
A five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, Catchings was also a 12-time All-WNBA selection, 12-time All-Defensive pick and 10-time All-Star. The 2011 MVP won a title and Finals MVP award, was a Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award winner, and was part of the 2020 Naismith Hall of Fame Induction Class. Catchings is currently the Vice President of Basketball Operations/General Manager of the Indiana Fever.

 

Tina Charles* Connecticut Sun (2010-13), New York Liberty (2014-19), Washington Mystics (Current)
The 2010 No. 1 overall pick and Rookie of the Year was the 2012 WNBA MVP. She is an eight-time All-WNBA selection, eight-time All-Star and four-time All-Defensive pick. She led the league in rebounding four times and in scoring once.

 

Cynthia Cooper Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2003)
A four-time champion with the Comets, Cooper earned four Finals MVP honors and was a two-time regular-season MVP. She led the league in scoring in three different seasons and was a three-time All-Star. Cooper averaged 21.0 points and 4.9 assists for her career.

 

Elena Delle Donne*    Chicago Sky (2013-2016), Washington Mystics (2017-Current)
The only player to be named WNBA MVP with two different teams (Chicago, 2015; Washington, 2019). Delle Donne is a five-time All-WNBA pick and six-time All-Star. She won a championship with Washington in 2019,  led the league in scoring in 2015, and is the only player in WNBA history to achieve a 50-40-90 season, shooting 50% from the field, 40% from three-point and a 90% free throw percentage during the 2019 season.

 

Sylvia Fowles*      Chicago Sky (2008-14), Minnesota Lynx (2015-present)
The league’s career leader in total rebounds and defensive boards, Fowles has won two championships and two Finals MVPs with the Lynx. She is a three-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, six-time All-WNBA choice, seven-time All-Star, nine-time All-Defensive pick and MVP in 2017.

 

Yolanda Griffith   Sacramento Monarchs (1999-2007), Seattle Storm (2008), Indiana Fever (2009)
A former league MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Griffith won a championship with the Monarchs. She also was a five-time All-WNBA pick, seven-time All-Star and two-time All-Defensive choice.

 

Brittney Griner*       Phoenix Mercury (2013-present)
A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Griner led the league in blocks each year from 2013-19. The league’s career dunks leader is a two-time scoring champ, five-time All-WNBA choice, seven-time All-Star, six-time All-Defensive Team pick, and won a WNBA championship in 2014. 

 

Becky Hammon  New York Liberty (1999-2006), San Antonio Stars (2007-2014) 
After entering the WNBA as an undrafted free agent, Hammon became a six-time WNBA All-Star and four-time All-WNBA selection in 16 seasons. She led the league in assists once and won the WNBA’s Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award. In 2014, the San Antonio Spurs made Hammon the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach.

 

Lauren Jackson Seattle Storm (2001-12)
One of only three players to earn MVP honors three times, Jackson won two championships with the Storm. She was a Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, eight-time All-WNBA selection, five-time All-Defensive Team pick and seven-time All-Star. Jackson led the league in scoring three times and in rebounding once.

 

Lisa Leslie Los Angeles Sparks (1997-2006, 2008-09)
Leslie was a three-time WNBA MVP, two-time Finals MVP and two-time Defensive Player of the Year. She led the league in rebounding three times and her 12 All-WNBA selections are tied for second-most. She won two championships with the Sparks.

 

Angel McCoughtry*   Atlanta Dream (2009-2016, 2018-19), Las Vegas Aces (2020-present)
The No. 1 pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft and the 2009 WNBA Rookie of the Year, McCoughtry is a two-time league scoring leader and steals leader. She also is a six-time All-WNBA pick, five-time All-Star, and seven-time All-Defensive selection.

 

Maya Moore Minnesota Lynx (2011-18)
Moore is a four-time champion and seven-time All-WNBA selection after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft and 2011 Rookie of the Year. The 2014 MVP and league scoring leader, as well as the 2013 Finals MVP, Moore was a six-time All-Star and a two-time All-Defensive team pick.

 

Nneka Ogwumike* Los Angeles Sparks (2012-present)
The 2016 WNBA MVP is a five-time All-WNBA and All-Defensive team selection and won a championship with the Sparks in 2016. She also won the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award the last two seasons and the 2018 WNBA season-long WNBA Community Assist Award. Ogwumike was also Rookie of the Year in 2012 and currently serves as the President of the WNBPA.

 

Candace Parker* Los Angeles Sparks (2008-20), Chicago Sky (Current)
Parker began her career by winning Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in 2008. She is a two-time MVP, the 2016 Finals MVP with the champion Sparks, a nine-time All-WNBA pick, six-time All-Star and three-time league rebounding leader. She is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

 

Ticha Penicheiro    Sacramento Monarchs (1998-2009), Los Angeles Sparks (2010-11), Chicago Sky (2012)
Penicheiro ranks second in WNBA history in total assists, leading the league in the category in seven seasons. She earned one title with the Monarchs, was a four-time All-Star and three-time All-WNBA pick. Penicheiro logged 2,599 career assists (5.7 apg).

 

Cappie Pondexter  Phoenix Mercury (2006-09), New York Liberty (2010-14), Chicago Sky (2015-17), Los Angeles/Indiana (2018)
Pondexter won two championships and a Finals MVP honor in her first four seasons in the league with Phoenix. A four-time All-WNBA selection and seven-time All-Star, Pondexter’s 6,811 career points rank fifth in league history.

 

Katie Smith Minnesota Lynx (1999-2005), Detroit Shock (2005-2009), Washington Mystics (2010), Seattle Storm (2011-12), New York Liberty (2013)
Smith won two championships and a Finals MVP award with the Shock. She ranks eighth in league history with 6,452 points. The four-time All-WNBA pick and seven-time All-Star earned All-Defensive honors once and led the league in scoring in one season.  Smith is currently an assistant coach with the Lynx.

 

Breanna Stewart* Seattle Storm (2016-present)
In four full seasons in the league, Stewart has earned two championships, two Finals MVPs and a regular-season MVP award. A former WNBA Rookie of the Year, she has been voted to the All-WNBA Team three times and All-Defensive Team twice. She also was MVP of the inaugural WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game in 2021.

 

Sheryl Swoopes Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2002-2007), Seattle Storm (2008), Tulsa Shock (2011)
Swoopes is the only player in WNBA history to be the regular-season MVP three times and Defensive Player of the Year three times. Swoopes, who won four titles with the Comets, was a two-time scoring leader, seven-time All-WNBA pick, and six-time All-Star.

 

Diana Taurasi* Phoenix Mercury (2004-2014, 2016-Current)
The WNBA’s career leader in points in the regular season and postseason, Taurasi’s 14 All-WNBA selections are the most in league history and her 10 All-Star selections are tied for second. A five-time scoring champ and one-time assists leader, Taurasi has won three championships, one MVP award and two Finals MVP trophies.

 

Tina Thompson Houston Comets (1997-2008), Los Angeles Sparks (2009-11), Seattle Storm (2012-13)
Thompson’s 7,488 career points rank second in WNBA history. A four-time champion with the Comets, she was an eight-time All-WNBA pick and was selected to participate in nine All-Star Games. Thompson is currently the head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Virginia.

 

Lindsay Whalen Connecticut Sun (2004-09), Minnesota Lynx (2010-18)
Whalen, who won four championships with the Lynx, ranks third in league history with 2,348 assists. A five-time All-WNBA pick and five-time All-Star, she was the league’s season assists leader three times. Whalen is currently the head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Minnesota.

 

Choosing the GOAT

People are quick to label athletes with Greatest of All Time, or GOAT, status. Usually, Cynthia Cooper’s and Sheryl Swoopes’ names appear for consideration given their four consecutive championships with the Houston Comets, from 1997-2000. Cooper, in particular, is often likened as “the Michael Jordan of women’s basketball. But Tina Thompson was the WNBA’s all-time scoring leader until Diana Taurasi surpassed Thompson in 2017. But there are a lot of players who fly under the radar of this conversation, including Nneka Ogwumike who, according to the WNBA’s own criteria for determining “The W25,” could be considered the best ever.

Well, fans will get to weigh in on the topic starting today at 5 p.m. ET by naming their pick with the hashtag #WNBAGoatVote on Twitter or by visiting  WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

#WNBAGoatVote: The Nitty-Gritty

Fans can vote on:

  • WNBA.com voting page at wnba.com/goatvote: Fans can fill out one ballot per day (per day is defined as once every 24 hours) on WNBA.com/goatvote from a desktop or mobile browser.
  • WNBA App: Fans can access the ballot through both the “Latest” and “More” tabs on the WNBA App, which is available on Android and iOS. Fans can fill out one ballot per day.
  • Twitter: Fans can tweet in their votes for their favorite player with the below criteria:
    • An eligible vote consists of:
      • The campaign hashtag (e.g.: #WNBAGoatVote) with the player name from The W25 list with or without a space (e.g.: Jane Doe or JaneDoe) or
      • The W25 player’s Twitter handle (e.g. @WNBAplayerJaneDoe)
    • Example of a Valid Vote: I just voted Jane Doe for the #WNBAGoatVote or I just voted for @JaneDoeWNBAPlayer for the #WNBAGoatVote
    • Retweets will count as a valid vote

Facts & Figures on “The W25”

The following analysis of “The W25” was provided courtesy of the WNBA:

  • A total of 167 All-Star selections – an average of 6.7 per player – were earned by the 25 members of The W25, each of whom was selected to at least three All-Star Games.
  • Twenty-two members of The W25 won a total of 53 WNBA championships (an average of 2.12 per player)
  • Four each by Augustus, Bird, Cooper, Moore, Swoopes, Thompson and Whalen
  • Three each by Cash and Taurasi
  • Two each by Fowles, Jackson, Leslie, Pondexter, Smith and Stewart
  • One each by Catchings, Delle Donne, Griffith, Griner, Ogwumike, Parker and Penicheiro
  • Through games of Sept. 4, 2021, the members of The W25 had played a combined total of 9,094 games and accounted for 138,005 points, 50,789 rebounds, 28,471 assists, 11,290 steals, and 7,214 blocks.
  • Nine players were named to all four of the WNBA’s honorary teams named during milestones in the league’s history – the All-Decade Team in 2006; Top 15 Players in 2011; Top 20@20 in 2016, and The W25 (Bird, Catchings, Cooper, Griffith, Jackson, Leslie, Smith, Swoopes and Thompson)
  • Seven of “The W25” have been named to one of the honorary teams for the first time (Charles, Delle Donne, Fowles, Griner, McCoughtry, Ogwumike and Stewart)
  • Two members of the five-player Honorable Mention list for the All-Decade Team selected in 2006 went on to be named to the Top 15 Players; Top 20@20; and The W25 (Penicheiro and Taurasi)
  • Fifteen colleges are represented: Baylor (Griner); Colorado State (Hammon); Connecticut (Bird, Cash, Charles, Moore, Stewart and Taurasi); Delaware (Delle Donne); Florida Atlantic (Griffith); Louisiana State (Augustus and Fowles); Louisville (McCoughtry); Minnesota (Whalen); Ohio State (Smith); Old Dominion (Penicheiro); Rutgers (Pondexter); Southern California (Cooper, Leslie and Thompson); Stanford (Ogwumike); Tennessee (Catchings and Parker); Texas Tech (Swoopes)
  • Fourteen of “The W25” have combined to win 23 of the 24 regular-season WNBA MVP awards (Catchings, 2011; Charles, 2012; Cooper, 1997 and 1998; Delle Donne, 2015 and 2019; Fowles, 2017; Griffith, 1999; Jackson, 2003, 2007 and 2010; Leslie, 2001, 2004 and 2006; Moore, 2014; Ogwumike, 2016; Parker, 2008 and 2013; Stewart, 2018; Swoopes, 2000, 2002 and 2005; Taurasi, 2009)
  • Twelve are former 1 overall draft picks (Augustus, 2006; Bird, 2002; Charles, 2010; Griner, 2013; Jackson, 2001; McCoughtry, 2009; Moore, 2011; Ogwumike, 2012; Parker, 2008; Stewart, 2016; Taurasi, 2004; Thompson, 1997)
  • Ten have won a WNBA championship, an NCAA title and an Olympic gold medal (Bird, Cash, Catchings, Cooper, Griner, Moore, Parker, Stewart, Swoopes and Taurasi)
  • Ten were the WNBA Rookie of the Year (Catchings, 2002; Taurasi, 2004; Augustus, 2006; Parker, 2008; McCoughtry, 2009; Charles, 2010; Moore, 2011; Ogwumike, 2012; Delle Donne, 2013; and Stewart, 2016)
  • Eight combined to win 18 of 24 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards (Catchings, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012; Fowles in 2011, 2013, and 2016; Griffith in, 1999; Griner in 2014 and 2015; Jackson in 2007; Leslie in 2004 and 2008; Parker in 2020; and Swoopes, in 2000, 2002 and 2003)
  • Five combined to win 10 of the 24 annual Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Awards presented by the WNBA (Bird, 2011 co-winner, 2017 and 2018; Swin Cash, 2013 co-winner; Tamika Catchings, 2010, 2013 co-winner, and 2016; Becky Hammon, 2014; and Nneka Ogwumike, 2019 and 2020)
  • Four won both the WNBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season (Griffith in 1999; Jackson in 2007; Leslie in 2004; and Swoopes in 2000 and 2002)
  • Four played in the WNBA’s inaugural season (Cooper, Leslie, Swoopes and Thompson)
  • Two of the 10 active players among “The W25” are seeking their first WNBA championship (Charles, McCoughtry)
  • Two of “The W25” have international roots (Jackson, Australia; Penicheiro, Portugal)
  • One is the only player to win championships in both the ABL and WNBA (Smith with the Columbus Quest of the ABL in 1997 and 1998, and Detroit Shock in 2006 and 2008).
  • One is the daughter of a former NBA player (Catchings – father, Harvey)
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