The WNBA season has been in full swing, or should I say full court press (pun intended), as the press has been on the league ‘s newest season this summer after being in a bubble last year.
Of course, the WNBA bubble coincided with the NBA’s bubble in 2020, both being in Florida. The 2020 champs? The Seattle Storm. They stormed through the series sweeping the Las Vegas Aces in three games, per WNBA.com. WNBA.com notes that Breanna Stewart finished with 26 points and was named Finals MVP for the second time in her career, with series averages of 28.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 63% shooting.
Stewart’s numbers and her overall play since being in the league definitely have to put her in a league of her own. With Stewart being one of the best players in the WNBA right now, where does that place her in WNBA history?
I know, it’s a tall task and this is totally up for a (healthy) debate as any list is going to be subjective, but it’s a good time in the season to look back and find out who the 25 best WNBA players of all time are. Let’s give it a shot!
Here are the 25 best WNBA players of all time:
(If you had to take a guess at this, here’s a hint: there’s a few in the league right now still playing who made the list.)
Ionescu is in a class of her own. Even though she’s just a rookie, she’s second in the league at dishing the rock, averaging 6.7 assists per game. Her university, Oregon, noted she was the “(f)irst player (female or male) in NCAA history with 2,000 career points (2,562), 1,000 career rebounds (1,040) and 1,000 career assists (1,091).” That’s baller status.
Defense wins championships. You have to include the WNBA’s third all-time steals leader in this list somehow. Bead had 710 career steals. She’s also 25th all-time in points with 4,740 and 26th all-time in assists with 1,061.
And Betnijah Laney
Jones and Laney both are in the top 5 of scoring in the league right now, both averaging over 20 points a game. You can’t not put players who put up those numbers currently at least in the honorable mentions.
There’s been so many great players to play in the league. But because the list only allows 25, there’s some who aren’t on this list that deserve to be on it including the honorable mentions. Yet the show must go on and without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here we go:
25 – Breanna Stewart
Coming in at number-25, Breanna Stewart. This season so far she’s averaging a double-double at 21.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, helping her defending champion Storm team from all over the floor in different facets. Just in her sixth year, watch out rest of this list, she’s got plenty of time and the potential to move up these ranks and be one of the best to ever play in the league.
24 – Margo Dydek
Margo Dydek. Just count this name synonymous with blocks. What’s that phrase again? Defense wins championships. And you can’t have a top 25 list without one of the best defenders to ever play the game She leads the WNBA all-time in blocks at 877 blocks. That’s a lot of swats. Get that outta’ here!
22 – Rebekkah Brunson
Attacking the glass is what every coach wants their team to do and it’s what Rebekkah Brunson did best. She’s second all-time in rebounds at 3,356 career boards. Rebounding is essential to any team’s success.
23 – Sylvia Fowles
Who else crashed the glass as much as Brunson? Sylvia Fowles, who is the WNBA’s all-time leader in rebounds at 3,506. Oh and she could also score with the best of them. You know, just casually being the 15th all-time leader in points with 5,674.
22 – Courtney Vandersloot
Vandersloot, a two-time All Star, can dish it out with the best of them. The WNBA’s fourth all-time leader in assists, she has 2,024 total. Something has to be said about being a playmaker for others, selflessly moving the rock to help your team win.
20 – Nneka Ogwumike
Another current WNBA player, she is fourth in the league right now in points at 20.5 a game. She also is a team player and distributes the rock, selflessly having 3.4 assists a game. She’s also got the potential to move up this list in just her third year. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve seen her hit these game-winning shots during March Madness. Being clutch for your team means something when you’re hooper.
19 – Candace Parker
You know her now as debating Shaq on TNT as one of the NBA analysts. You may know her from her days at the historic franchise of Tennessee Women’s Basketball under the great Pat Summitt‘s leadership. When it came to the WNBA, Parker also put up numbers. She is the league’s 14th all-time scorer with 5,753 career points. Playing under Summitt, you know teamwork was emphasized, which she carried into her pro career and became the 12th all-time passer, totalling 1,354 career assists.
18 – Lauren Jackson
Jackson’s the league’s 10th all-time scoring leader at 6,007 career points and the 15th all-time rebounder at 2,447 career boards. She’s a three-time WNBA MVP and seven-time All Star.
17 – Swin Cash
Detroit, stand up! If you know me, you know I had to have a Detroit athlete up in here. And Swin Cash was no joke. She was a part of some historic Detroit Shock championship runs. The WNBA describes that run as this: “L.A.’s hope for a three-peat was thwarted by the Detroit Shock, who became the first team in American pro sports to go from having the worst record in the league (9-23 in 2002) to champions the following season. The Shock would go on to win three titles in six years under the leadership of head coach Bill Laimbeer.” Cash is also 20th all-time in points with 5,119 and 12th all-time in rebounds with 2,521.
16 – Becky Hammon
Becky Hammon was a part of history as, in December 2020, she was “the first woman to act as head coach during an NBA regular-season game…(t)he San Antonio assistant coach filled in for head coach Gregg Popovich…” according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. Being a coach in the NBA is a feat within itself. So is what she did when she played in the WNBA. She is the sixth all-time leader in assists and 12th all-time leader in points.
15 – Lindsay Whalen
Whalen was simply an all-around baller. She is the WNBA’s third all-time leader in assists, 18th all-time leader in scoring, 30th all-time in rebounding, and 14th all-time in steals. The five-time WNBA All Star got the job done and did whatever the team needed, per these numbers, on both ends of the floor. She’s now the Minnesota Golden Gophers Women’s Basketball head coach.
14 – Tina Charles
The ninth all-time WNBA’s leading scorer, fifth all-time rebounder, 16th all-time shot blocker, Tina Charles also hustles on both ends of the floor. She also just so happens to be leading the league so far this season with 24.5 points a game. She’s also averaging nine boards per game. The seven-time All Star was also the 2012 WNBA MVP and when you ball out on defense and offense, in this list, you get the 14th best WNBA player of all time.
13 – Ticha Penicheiro
I’m telling you, dishing the rock means something in hoops. To pass the ball is to be a good teammate is to spark ball movement is to lead to wins. When you’re the WNBA’s second all-time leader in assists with 2,599 career total in the category, you’re going to be 13th on the best WNBA players of all time.
12 – Candice Dupree
Dupree is a seven-time All Star, is fifth all-time in points in league history, 20th all-time in blocks, and is consistent with her shot. She’s fourth all-time in field goal percentage, shooting at a 49.6-percent mark. That means she doesn’t miss often. When she puts a shot up, she’s one of the best in the league at making it.
11 – Katie Smith
Katie Smith is a seven-time All-Star and was the 2008 WNBA Finals MVP with the Detroit Shock. As her Instagram bio states, she’s also a “Naismith HOF 2018 3x Olympic Gold, 2x WNBA Champion, 2x ABL Champion”.
10 – Cappie Pondexter
Alright, ladies and gentlemen, you have now officially entered the: top 10! Congrats, you’ve made it. And Cappie Pondexter has made it as the tenth best WNBA player of all time on this list. She is fourth all-time in scoring and seventh all-time in assists. To be in the top 10 in these two categories puts you in elite WNBA company.
9 – Seimone Augustus
The 2006 WNBA rookie of the year and 2011 Finals MVP ranks 11th all-time in scoring and seventh all-time in field goal percentage (48%). She is a four-time WNBA champion. That’s tied for most of any player in WNBA history, per Sport-Net’s Cindy Szabo).
8 – Sheryl Swoopes
A three-time MVP, six-time All Star, Hall of Famer, defensive player of the year three times, Swoopes was one of the best defensive players in the game. She is fifth all-time in steals with 657. She’s also got four championships to her name, which is tied for most all-time per Szabo.
7 – Cynthia Cooper
Cynthia Cooper is a two-time MVP and three-time All Star, who’s in the Hall of Fame with four titles to her name, also in that list tied for most of any player per Szabo. She got drafted in 1997 then led her team to four straight WNBA titles winning four straight WNBA Finals MVPs. Let me say that again: she led her team to four straight WNBA titles winning four straight WNBA Finals MVPs right outta’ the gate entering the league. And get this, she only played five WNBA seasons.
6 – Lisa Leslie
Lisa Leslie is eighth all time in scoring with 6,263 points, fourth all time in rebounds with 3,307, and second all time in blocks with 822. The three-time and eight-time All Star is also in the Hall of Fame. She was the 2001 and 2002 Finals MVP and twice was defensive player of the year. When you think of the WNBA, Lisa Leslie probably comes to mind, being an ambassador of the game.
Let’s take this moment to take a brief intermission before getting into the rest of this list.
According to Sport-Net’s Cindy Szabo‘s compilation of WNBA players who have the most championships to their name, here’s the list: “Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, and Tina Thompson of the four-peat Houston Comets and Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx are the only WNBA players with four championships. Sue Bird is in a great position to put herself ahead of all of those WNBA legends and win a fifth title.
Now, here’s where debates of GOATs on team sports get interesting. Do championship rings matter when it comes to consideration of being the best in their sport? Or does individual performances on the court or field matter? This is where subjectivity can get into play here because everyone has their opinion.
But when it comes to this list, we’re going to go with having more title helps in getting towards the top of this list. There’s a lot to be said about knowing what it takes to win, having those intangibles to contribute to overall team success in winning the whole thing.
With that being in said, ladies and gentlemen, here’s the top five WNBA players of all time.
5 – Sue Bird
You already know the four titles and you also may know about the fact she is the WNBA’s all-time leader, by far, in assists with 2,972. She also ranks seventh all-time in the WNBA in scoring with 6,422 total points. An 11-time All Star, she’s still taking the league by storm having played her entire career so far with the Storm. When you are the league leader in the history of the whole WNBA, you are definitely one of the top five players to ever play the game. Teamwork is crucial to success and the proof is in the pudding with those four championships.
4- Tamika Catchings
Tamika Catchings was the 2011 MVP and was a 10-time All Star who is also in the Hall of Fame. She is one of the best scorers to ever play in the league. She is ranked third all-time in points with 7,380. She is also one of the best rebounders to ever play in the WNBA, ranking third all-time with 3,316 boards. She’s also one of the best passers to ever suit up in the WNBA, ranking eighth all-time with 1,488 assists. She is also one of the best shot blockers, ranking 12th all-time with 385 blocks. But what’s even more impressive than all that? Catchings is literally the best at stealing to ever play in the league. She is the all-time leader, by far, in steals with 1,074. That type of all-around play makes you one of the top 5 players to ever play in the WNBA.
3 – Diana Taurasi
Diana Taurasi. The WNBA’s leader in the history of the league in scoring. DT has played her whole career so far with the Phoenix Mercury, was the 2009 MVP and is a nine-time All Star. She’s a two-time Finals MVP and was also the 2004 Rookie of the Year. Since 2004, it’s been nothing but points on points on points for Taurasi. Her career points totals 8,994, leading the category by a lot, and she’s still putting up massive points. This season, in four games, she’s averaged 20.3 a game. But as much as she scores, she also knows a thing or two about passing. She’s fifth all-time in assists with 1,968 total so far.
2 – Tina Thompson
Tina Thompson has the record for the second-most points ever scored in the WNBA with 7,488. She’s also seventh all-time in rebounding with 3,070, and 13th in blocks with 372. The nine-time All-Star is also in the Hall of Fame and has those four WNBA titles to her name. Her Instagram bio states, she’s also got two gold medals and is the University of Virginia head coach.
1 – Maya Moore
The 2014 MVP and six-time All Star, Moore straight up balled out in the league. She was the 2011 Rookie of the Year, 2013 Finals MVP, and named to the All-Defensive team twice.
Like I mentioned previously, defense wins championships. And in this case, it’s literally won her the best WNBA player of all time in this list as she defended her now husband off the court, as well.
USA Today Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes noted that, “Moore announced that she will continue to be away from the league and will sit out the 2021 season. Moore, who hasn’t played in the league since the 2018 campaign, has devoted the years since toward fighting for criminal justice reform and was the catalyst to overturn the wrongful conviction of Jonathan Irons. He had served 23 years of a 50-year sentence after he was convicted on burglary and assault charges from an incident that took place in 1998.”
Moore would probably still be balling out, winning MVPs and titles, possibly even breaking the individual championship-record. But, a true win is helping champion the prison reform cause as she married her MVP. And, if you ask me, that is best player in WNBA history-worthy, making history on and off the court.
So, what are your thoughts? Would you change any of this around? Who would your top 25 list be? Let us know in the comments!
In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the WNBA season and we’ll see if the league-leading Storm right now can storm back to the WNBA Finals and repeat as champions or if there will be another team to take how the title this year.
Charlie Lapastora is a sports/news multimedia journalist who’s reported, written, produced, anchored, shot video/edited on different NBC, ABC, and FOX shows in multiple TV markets, along with digital & new media companies. Charlie has traveled the country telling national sports, news, feature, and original stories on a cable news network, airing on top 10 TV markets, satellite radio, and digital platforms. He is passionate about his faith, family—being a husband to whom he calls the G.O.A.T. of women—about reppin’ his home state of Michigan and Detroit teams (yes, including the Lions), good coffee, and loves how sports brings people together. He’s traveled the world leading and coaching sports camps and has also worked at the Detroit Pistons and LA Clippers’ NBA teams.
- 1 Honorable Mentions
- 2 Sabrina Ionescu
- 3 Alana Beard
- 4 Jonquel Jones
- 5 And Betnijah Laney
- 6 25 – Breanna Stewart
- 7 24 – Margo Dydek
- 8 22 – Rebekkah Brunson
- 9 23 – Sylvia Fowles
- 10 22 – Courtney Vandersloot
- 11 20 – Nneka Ogwumike
- 12 19 – Candace Parker
- 13 18 – Lauren Jackson
- 14 17 – Swin Cash
- 15 16 – Becky Hammon
- 16 15 – Lindsay Whalen
- 17 14 – Tina Charles
- 18 13 – Ticha Penicheiro
- 19 12 – Candice Dupree
- 20 11 – Katie Smith
- 21 10 – Cappie Pondexter
- 22 9 – Seimone Augustus
- 23 8 – Sheryl Swoopes
- 24 7 – Cynthia Cooper
- 25 6 – Lisa Leslie
- 26 Intermission
- 27 5 – Sue Bird
- 28 4- Tamika Catchings
- 29 3 – Diana Taurasi
- 30 2 – Tina Thompson
- 31 1 – Maya Moore
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