Doubts emerged in the last century over the future of women contributing to entertaining physical activities, but current results blow wide open the accomplishments of women in sports.
America’s WNBA proves the global upsurge of women’s sports thanks to exceptional athletes who have become superstars and regular household names.
This fact above brings to mind four-time league champion Cynthia Cooper, who was 34 when she joined the WNBA in its inaugural season, and other praiseworthy figures who have etched their names in the glory books.
It is essential to talk about these women, and we base our ranking on their on-court performances.
Without further ado, let us discuss the best WNBA players of all time.
Best WNBA Players Of All Time
10. Sylvia Fowles
Former Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles was a name to reckon with throughout the 2010s.
Our debutant was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year four times between 2011 and 2021, during which she led the Lynx superteam to two WNBA Championships and was named the MVP in both finals.
Critics have tried to over-emphasize the quality of players surrounding Fowles, especially in Minnesota, where she won most of her titles and individual honors.
However, she excelled as the most notable offensive and defensive contributor.
The eight-time WNBA All-Star won the 2017 league MVP Award following a successful season when she finished as the top scorer and rebounder in the championship.1
More reason to consider Sylvia Fowles as a league legend is her longevity, spending 14 years in the top flight as a consistent performer until the dusk of her career.
She finished her career as the all-time leader in double-doubles, with an average of 15.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. A testament to Fowles’s illustrious career is her No. 34 jersey, retired by the Minnesota Lynx.2
9. Candace Parker
We find no fault in Parker’s nickname Ace after considering the 37-year-old’s decorated career.
Candace Parker was the first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA draft, and she lived up to the promise she showed as a two-time NCAA champion and most outstanding player.
The power forward thrived from her WNBA debut, winning the Rookie of the Year Award and MVP in her maiden season to place herself among the potential best players of the following decade.
Eventually, she now sits among the most outstanding players of all time with two league MVP titles, one Defensive Player of the Year Award, six All-WNBA First Team appearances, and two-time all-defensive team honors in 16 WNBA seasons.
Parker is an indisputable utility player who can play any position on the court. More so, she is a prolific player with the ability to push into the opposition net, be the big woman at the rim, or step back and launch from a distance.
8. Sue Bird
Loyalty is rare in sports these days, but Sue Bird was an exceptional professional who exemplified this quality.
The American-Israeli played her entire career with Seattle Storm; the team selected her as the first overall pick of the 2002 WNBA draft.
However, there is more to Sue Bird’s career than just her loyalty to the Storm.
As of 2021, she was the only player in the league’s history to win WNBA championships in three decades.
Her individual honors include thirteen WNBA All-Star and five All-WNBA First-Team appearances.
She is also a three-time assists champion and two-time WNBA Peak Performer.
Bird has the most appearances in WNBA history, starting most of these matches and performing at the highest level until her retirement, despite being relatively shorter than many superstars of her caliber.
As such, the Seattle Storm retired her No. 10 jersey.3
At 41, Bird played 19 WNBA seasons, retiring as the league’s career leader in assists (5.6 per game), second in 3-point field goals (1,001), third-highest in steals (725), and seventh-highest in points (11.7 per game).4
7. Lauren Jackson
It seems the Seattle Storm has an eye for picking players that would eventually become one of the best in their generation.
The franchise did so with Sue Bird in 2002 but was also fortunate the previous year with Lauren Jackson.
Jackson traveled from Australia to conquer the WNBA for 11 years, with a record all-time second for win share total and all-time third for career player efficiency.
Jackson spent her decade-long stretch to build a reputation that would see her become one of the league’s all-time most transformative players.
She was a formidable center and was influential on the offensive turnover.
Her skills helped her dominate the league between 2003 and 2010 despite injuries plaguing the later part of this era.
As such, she helped Seattle Storm to two WNBA championships and won the latter’s Finals MVP.
More so, she received several honors within that period, including three WNBA MVP titles and scoring champion awards, seven All-Star and five all-defensive team appearances, one Defensive Player of the Year and rebounding champion award, four WNBA Anniversary Team appearances, and three Peak Performer Awards.
Seattle Storm retired Lauren Jackson’s No. 15 Jersey, and she earned a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 2020.5
6. Sheryl Swoopes
While we rank every player according to their on-court performance and laurels, we also reward history-makers.
Sheryl Swoopes ranks amongst the most notable WNBA history-makers as the first player to be signed in the league and checks other boxes mentioned earlier.
The six-foot shooting guard was a passionate player renowned for her high work rate. However, she was more than a passion-merchant, evidenced by many record-breaking feats and title-winning performances.
Swoopes excelled in many career first-time hattricks; she became the first WNBA player to record a triple-double, the first player in WNBA and NBA history to win three MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Awards, and also the first to have won an NCAA championship, a WNBA title, and an Olympic gold medal.6
She also set commercial WNBA records, being the first to have a signature shoe.
Sheryl Swoopes signed off the court with 15.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 3.2 APG. She won four championships and two scoring champion and steals champion awards.
More so, she made five All-WNBA First Team and two All-Defensive Team appearances.
5. Lisa Leslie
More often than not, men are renowned for risk-taking than women.
However, Lisa Leslie proved that her gender could do it all when she became the first player to dunk during a WNBA game.
However, her WNBA legacy surpasses a first-ever skill display.
She was a commanding defender, a consistent scorer, a clutch player, and perhaps the best-ever center to grace the WNBA hardwood.
The Los Angeles Sparks’ legend is a two-time WNBA champion who won the MVP in both finals.
She was named the league’s MVP thrice and won the MVP award in three of eight WNBA All-Star appearances.
She would finish her career with 6,263 points (ninth), 3,307 rebounds (fifth), and 822 blocks (second).
Leslie did justice to international games, winning the 2002 FIBA World Championship for Women and claiming its MVP title. She also represented the United States in four Olympic tournaments, clinching gold medals in all.
4. Maya Moore
Securing our fourth spot is Maya Moore, who Sports Illustrated dubbed the greatest winner in women’s basketball’s history after winning the organization’s inaugural Performer of the Year Award in 2017.10
Moore spent only seven years in the league, unofficially ending her playing career in 2018, but had done enough to engrave her name in the books of legends.
The former Lynx was the overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft following an outstanding NCAA spell.
Gladly, she had an illustrious professional career that substantiated her promise.
Maya Moore started her professional career laurels with the Rookie of the Year Award and won four WNBA Championships, a Finals MVP title, and one scoring champion award.
She also featured in five All-WNBA First Team squads and made two All-Defensive team appearances.
Moore averaged 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.7 steals per game; she also recorded a 45.3 field goal percentage.
Arguably, Moore would have topped this list had she spent a few more years in the WNBA.
3. Cynthia Cooper
In team sports, goals or points win games.
What better players could there be than those that guarantee these points?
Hardly any player can challenge four-time league champion Cynthia Cooper, who was 34 when she joined the WNBA in its inaugural season.
Cooper is another example of basketball ‘could haves’ as she might have become the undisputable GOAT if the WNBA existed before her first season.
Anyone can win the championship four times, but only Cynthia Cooper has won it four successive times and finished as the Finals MVP all four times.
She also won the league MVP Award twice and remains the all-time leader in career scoring average, with 20.98 points per game.11
More so, she boasts four All-WNBA First Team appearances and is a three-time scoring champion.
While Cooper’s stats are undoubtedly impressive, her impact on professional women’s basketball went beyond her title-winning performance and the numbers it produced.
She defined the actual role of her position and changed the way players featured in the women’s game alongside Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson to form a renowned triple-threat offense.
As such, the Comets retired Cooper’s No. 14 Jersey and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined her in 2009.
Fellow Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Rebecca Lobo believed Cooper’s skills, mental game, experience, and ability to read situations in a half-court offense or coming off the pick-and-roll made her unstoppable.
Little wonder she has made it to four WNBA Anniversary Teams.
2. Tamika Catchings
Catchings caught possibly every trophy and individual honor available to a professional during her WNBA spell.
Regardless, she was renowned for her all-around ability and is revered as one of the most complete players ever to bounce a ball on the WNBA hardwood.
The likes of Lisa Leslie were known for their defensive prowess.
However, Diana Taurasi and Cynthia Cooper were offensive monsters, but Tamika Catchings was a hard worker who could do just about everything on the court.
Indiana Fever’s legend won only one championship, in which she was named MVP, but holds several records, including the WNBA playoffs all-time leading scorer, playoffs all-time rebounding leader, and playoffs all-time steals leader.
Moreover, she won five WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards, has ten All-Star appearances, and is an eight-time WNBA steals leader.
Her steals record puts her above every other player as the league’s all-time steal leader (1,074). Indiana Fever retired Catchings’s No. 24 jersey to honor her as she has represented them in all four WNBA Anniversary Teams and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.12
1. Diana Taurasi
Hundreds of names have emerged in all twelve WNBA teams, and here we have honored nine most outstanding performers.
However, Diana Taurasi surpasses them all thanks to her unmatched offensive prowess and graceful longevity.
Despite not being one of the tallest WNBA players in her time, she established herself as the WNBA GOAT.
Taurasi moves down the line if we base our rankings on players’ number of championships or MVP Awards.
Nevertheless, Taurasi boasts the highest offensive win-share total (60.49), gapping second-placed Sue Bird (42.06).
Trophy-wise, Taurasi is a three-time WNBA champion, winning the Finals MVP twice. She was the league’s MVP in 2009 and the Rookie of the Year in her debut season in 2004, where she was the draft’s first overall pick.13
The tested scorer is a five-time WNBA scoring champion and one-time assist leader, with six Peak Performer Awards.
She has also made three WNBA Anniversary Team appearances and is on course for more titles until she retires.
As of 2022, Taurasi’s career average was 19.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 4.3 APG.
Many female basketball players have been setting impressive court records since the WNBA inaugural season in 1997.
However, the ten best WNBA players of all time mentioned are the most outstanding, judging by their on-court performances, historic records, and the titles they have won.
Selecting these players was challenging due to the various metrics we considered.
However, these women have set the scene in the WNBA with their talent, devotion, and consistency.
With these legends retired and their legacies and secure, attention is now cast on younger stars, notably the highest paid players in basketball to met or surpass the records set by these stars.
References & Notes
- Sylvia Fowles took over the 2017 WNBA Finals and isn’t going away anytime soon. SB Nation
- Sylvia Fowles Sets A New Record For WNBA Double-Doubles. Minnesota Lynx
- Seattle Storm retires Sue Bird’s iconic No.10 jersey in emotional ceremony. CNN
- WNBA legend Sue Bird retiring after 2022 season: ‘I’m gonna miss it. ESPN
- LAUREN JACKSON INDUCTED INTO WOMEN’S BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME. Basketball NSW
- Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes: A True Pioneer. WNBA
- 2022 Class of FIBA Hall of Fame: Lisa Leslie. FIBA
- 2004 WNBA Season Awards. WNBA
- Sparks to retire Lisa Leslie’s jersey. ESPN
- Maya Moore Is the Greatest Winner in History of Women’s Basketball—and Best May Be Yet to Come. Sports Illustrated
- WNBA Career Leaders and Records for Points Per Game. Basketball Reference[
- WNBA all-time steals leaders as of August 2022. Statista
- History for Diana Taurasi: Mercury legend becomes first WNBA player to score 10,000 points. USA Today