Los Angeles – Diana Taurasi scored 19 points to become the WNBA’s career scoring leader Sunday as the Los Angeles Sparks routed her Phoenix Mercury, 90-59.
With 45 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Taurasi dribbled around a screen and drove past Nneka Ogwumike to score the layup. She now has 7,494 career points, eclipsing Tina Thompson’s 7,488.
The game was stopped and Taurasi was given a standing ovation for the achievement that took her 13 seasons; Thompson needed 17. Earlier this month, Taurasi set the league’s all-time three-point shot mark.
Ogwumike finished with 18 points for Los Angeles, while Candace Parker added 17. Riquna Williams scored a season-high 15 points.
The Sparks raced out to an early lead, hitting 22-2 at one point and finishing the quarter ahead 38-17 – their highest-scoring quarter and two points short of the WNBA record for most points in a quarter. They took advantage of early foul trouble for Taurasi and Brittney Griner, who was limited to just 11 points on the day, and scored 30 points in the paint before halftime.
Los Angeles hit the 30-point lead mark early in the fourth period, and never looked back. But despite the rout, Taurasi was happy about breaking the scoring record.
“It feels good,” she said. “The last couple of weeks it’s been a little bit of weight on my shoulders. It’s pretty special when you pass Tina in anything. She’s been such an amazing player for the WNBA and just for basketball in general, she’s such an icon.”
“There’s been so many great players in this league and that’s what we want to get to. We want to create history every time. This league puts out the best basketball players in the world and I’ve been lucky. I’ve been really lucky to be in one team for my whole career, to have coaches really have confidence in me and let me play.”
Thompson was quick to congratulate Taurasi for surpassing her mark.
“Congratulations to Diana on becoming the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer,” Thompson said. “I am excited that it is Diana, and it is my absolute pleasure to pass the torch on to her. She and I have shared so many amazing moments throughout our basketball careers, whether it was gold medals, championships or all-star games.”
“Diana is one of the best players to ever play the game, and definitely one of my favorites. She has done amazing things, and I am so grateful that I’ve been able to share many of those with her. I am really excited for Diana and I think she is going to blow that record out of the water.”
The historic achievement was also special for Taurasi because it occurred near her hometown. Taurasi spent her childhood years living in North Hollywood before moving to Chino, California at the age of eight.
“It’s huge!” Taurasi said of the coincidence. “I used to come to this arena all the time. I used to go to the Great Western Forum…I’ve played a lot of basketball in the streets of Los Angeles, in the Valley, in Riverside. It’s really where I fell in love with the game.”
Ogwumike attributed the Sparks early success to playing as a team.
“I think we are hitting our strides a little bit, but we are also realizing our individual roles and our roles as a team,” she said. “We want to stick to what we do well and we play defense well. That’s kind of what fuels our game.”
Ogwumike praised Taurasi.
“It’s amazing! Amazing!” she said. “That is something you have to honor. She got it for a reason—she’s a winner and a scorer.”
However, despite a 31-point victory, Sparks coach Brian Agler was quick to note that the Sparks still have plenty to work on with a lot of season left.
“We’re still improving; I don’t think we are a finished product by any means,” Agler said. “It was really good to see a couple things: us getting off to a good start with our starters, and people coming in off the bench really contributing and not having a drop off.”
With their loss, the Mercury are 6-5 and tied for fifth in league standings, while the Sparks are second.
Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello expressed sadness that such an iconic moment happened in such a lopsided defeat.
“I’m just sad for Diana that we didn’t put up a bit of an effort for this history making game,” she said.
“Unfortunately, We’re going to remember a game where we just got our butts kicked. It is what it is, it doesn’t take away from what Diana has achieved. It’s amazing, she’s a special player. She wants to win, her will to win probably exceeds any kind of player I’ve seen.”
Brondello said Taurasi is purely focused on team success, prioritizing that over individual accolades.
“People don’t realize, but for Diana it’s not about all the records she’s breaking, it’s about the winning and the cameraderie. That’s really what makes her special. She’s all about ‘We’re a team, this is how we’re going to win, as a team.’”
“She’s so humble, so unselfish, that’s the kind of person she is, on and off the court. Hopefully she’ll look back and realize what she’s done and enjoy it for a few days and keep adding to that tally.”