To argue that Diana Taurasi was extremely disappointed with the outcome of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Finals would be noting the obvious. The emotional leader of the Phoenix Mercury most definitely wanted to win — or, to be more accurate, refused to accept defeat. It’s the way she has long been wired, back when she played high school hops in California, through her championship years at the University of Connecticut, whenever she found herself burning rubber overseas or for the red, white, and blue, and as she built on her status as the league’s greatest of all time.
Considering Taurasi’s intrinsic competitiveness, it was no surprise for her to toil in the playoffs despite an ankle injury that should have kept her sidelined. Even as all and sundry — and she herself — saw that she was far from her best, she understood that suiting up was akin to scratching an unending itch. The alternative was simply out of the question. Never mind that she’s an old 39 who no longer has to prove herself as a certified first-ballot Hall of Famer. As far as she’s concerned, the mountains she already climbed just got her in front of the one she needs to scale.
Unfortunately for Taurasi, the Chicago Sky wound up being too good for the Mercury to overcome in spite of her presence. It’s a tribute to the quality of the opposition, and no knock on her, that, sometimes, the development was precisely because of her presence. Indeed, Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) awardee Kahleah Copper exposed her deficiencies on defense; age and ailment made her an evident target for the fleet-footed All-Star. And she was inconsistent at best on offense. In the title-clinching Game Four, she missed seeming gimmes — including a crucial free throw — in the crunch.
To be sure, nothing can wipe the luster off Taurasi’s name. Her legacy is secure, built through years — decades, really — of success and, more importantly, of wanting to succeed. When all is said and done, it won’t matter if she wasn’t herself in the Finals, even off the court. She kept complaining to, and arguing with, the referees; heck, she even committed the cardinal sin of pushing one. And after the Sky claimed the title, she not only refused to attend the obligatory media session; she broke the door to the visitors’ locker room at the Wintrust Arena. Not quite becoming of the WNBA’s official GOAT, but, if nothing else, showing that, for all her accomplishments, her most significant trait may well be that she’s only human, too.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.