WNBA

Diana Taurasi’s trash-talking, in-your-face ways may be a bit of a shock to new WNBA fans

Diana Taurasi’s trash-talking, in-your-face ways may be a bit of a shock to new WNBA fans

It is no surprise to established WNBA fans that Diana Taurasi appears briefly chirping at an unknown target in the league’s 2024 campaign that parodies an office onboarding video. The clip is to highlight that “communication is highly valued.”

Taurasi does plenty of it. Mostly trash talking with blunt honesty and sarcasm thrown in for good measure. Welcome to the WNBA, where personalities are already aplenty, and Taurasi stands above them all, whether the sports world at large has been watching her do it or not.

Taurasi, 41, took heat last month when she said “reality is coming” for the league’s incoming rookies. Collegiate fans took it as a shot at Caitlin Clark, even though Taurasi didn’t use any names and interviewer Scott Van Pelt identified multiple players in his question.

The 20-year veteran’s response when asked about the fan criticism was classic Taurasi.

“Yeah, you know, the new fans are really sensitive these days,” Taurasi told a group of reporters Sunday in Phoenix before the Mercury left for training camp at San Diego State. “You can’t say anything.”

Ironically, Taurasi made her initial comments while on the Final Four set of “The Bird and Taurasi Show,” an ESPN multicast built around Taurasi delivering wild, fun, unfiltered remarks as close friend Sue Bird keeps the show relatively on track.

The show idea came out of Taurasi’s appearance on Bird and partner Megan Rapinoe’s Instagram Live “A Touch More” during the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine. Taurasi threw shade at rookies that night, too, before Clark had enrolled at Iowa. The 22-year-old Clark wasn’t even born when Taurasi’s personality first went national as a cold-blooded superstar at UConn, where she won three consecutive national championships and became the school’s first two-time national player of the year.

To be fair, that was a full generation ago.

Her resume with the Mercury, which selected her No. 1 overall in 2004, is more illustrious. She’s a three-time WNBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, 14-time All-WNBA player and 2004 Rookie of the Year. She made it onto the MVP ballot in all but five of her 19 seasons. Five times she placed in the top three, but only once did she win it. No guard has been named MVP since her in 2009.

In August, Taurasi surpassed 10,000 career regular-season points at Footprint Center in Phoenix on a season-high 42-point night. She broke the league’s scoring record in 2017, passing Tina Thompson’s mark of 7,488. At the league’s 15th, 20th and 25th anniversaries, she was named one of the greatest and most influential players in league history.

While going overseas to supplement her WNBA income during the first half of her career, she won six EuroLeague titles and seven Russian national league championships as a three-time Russian League Player of the Year.

The four-time USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year played on the last six Team USA rosters to win Olympic gold. She is in the mix to be named this summer to the 2024 Paris roster, as the team is going for a seventh consecutive gold. Taurasi could pass Bird as the first player to win six Olympic golds.

There’s no denying her play can back up anything she might say. And she’s perfected her delivery while balancing a serious response. Take her reply to the offseason outcry regarding the Mercury hiring head coach Nate Tibbetts, a longtime NBA assistant with zero coaching experience in the women’s game.

“I mean, I hate men,” Taurasi said. “I don’t know how they hired him.”

She paused for effect and laughed.

“That’s just all hot smoke, click-bait,” she said Sunday. “The man is a coach, that’s what he does for his whole life. He coached at the highest level in the NBA and to now have an opportunity to be around him these last four or five months [has] been refreshing.”

Taurasi, dubbed the “White Mamba” by Kobe Bryant, remains a face of the league for her success as well as her antics. She stops at little to win, even lobbying for a technical foul on Bird in the deciding Game 5 of the legendary 2018 semifinal series Bird’s Seattle Storm won.

At the 2016 Olympics, Taurasi quipped the team could “run around naked” to draw more attention to their impending gold. After the Mercury lost the 2021 WNBA Finals to the Chicago Sky, she reportedly smashed in the visiting locker room door at Wintrust Arena. The Mercury declined to attend postgame media availability. Asked about it 24 hours later at exit interviews, Taurasi kept it brief.

“There were a lot of doors in there,” she said.

In the 2020 bubble season held at IMG Academy in Florida, she argued a foul by telling referees, “I’ll see you in the lobby later.” It unsurprisingly drew a technical, another category for which she’s well-known. She once drew one in street clothes from the bench.

Not included in the league’s “Welcome to the WNBA” introduction: The season unofficially begins when Taurasi draws her first tech. It won’t take long. Opening night is May 14.

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