There’s nothing like a round number anniversary to inspire a sports league to put together a “Top [Insert Same Round Number] Players of All Time” list. And with the WNBA turning 25 this year, they have unveiled just such a ranking to celebrate the 25 best players in their history.
One of the most important conclusions revealed by the W25 list is that the league would not be close to where it is today without the contributions of the LGBTQ community. Of the Top 25 WNBA players of all time, nine are out athletes, over one-third of the list.
In some quarters, the best WNBA team ever is up for debate. There are those who argue for the Seattle Storm. Others insist it’s the Minnesota Lynx. But as the league’s own Best Ever rankings make abundantly clear, the greatest roster in WNBA history is Team LGBTQ.
Consider these names...
Seimone Augustus was the heart and soul of the four-time WNBA champion Lynx, taking home a WNBA Finals MVP in 2011 and ranking 11th in league history in points scored at the time of her 2021 retirement. She also made her presence felt in the fight for marriage equality, speaking out against Minnesota’s proposed anti-LGBTQ marriage amendment during the 2012 Finals and penning a celebration of her relationship in the wake of the Obergefell decision.
Sue Bird is, of course, half of one of pro sports’ most celebrated LGBTQ power couples with fiancée Megan Rapinoe. A fixture in the W like few players before or since, Bird set a record this season by becoming the first player in league history to record 3000 career assists. Additionally, she has won four championships and is the first to capture a WNBA title in three different decades. Even setting all that aside, Bird belongs on this list for her Avril Lavigne cover alone.
Elena Delle Donne has overcome a litany of health issues to establish herself as one of the most dominant players in the league. Racking up 3,000 career points faster than any player in WNBA history, Delle Donne is also the first to win an MVP with two teams: the Chicago Sky and Washington Mystics. She came out publicly in a 2016 Vogue profile with her soon-to-be-wife Amanda Clifton.
Brittney Griner established herself with a stellar college tenure at Baylor, despite being encouraged to stay in the closet by head coach Kim Mulkey. The first WNBA player to record a slam dunk in the playoffs, Griner has made six All-Star teams. She came out in 2013 after being drafted first overall by the Phoenix Mercury and married the Tulsa Shock’s Glory Johnson in 2015 after a sometimes-tumultuous courtship that included a mutual arrest on charges of domestic violence. The two have since divorced.
Angel McCoughtry had also felt the sting of discrimination as she revealed when she came out on Instagram in 2015: “My last overseas team threatened my job if I didn’t write a fake letter on social media saying my relationship was a lie.” But she stayed true to herself in the end, enthusing “love is a great feeling and GOD is love.” A 2009 Rookie of the Year and scoring title winner in 2012 and 2013, McCoughtry holds the WNBA Finals single game scoring record with 38 points for the Atlanta Dream in 2011.
Beanna Stewart has had a 2021 for the ages: proposing to girlfriend and WNBA rival Marta Xargay in May, winning her second Olympic gold medal in August, and welcoming her first child into the world one day later. This after a 2020 where she won Finals MVP while leading the Storm to a championship and was named one of Sports Illustrated’s Sportspersons of the Year for her work as an Athlete Activist. At this point, being named to the W25 feels like something Stewart would do to chill in her spare time.
Sheryl Swoopes is a legend both on the court and as one of the most prominent athletes of her time to speak openly of her LGBTQ relationship. A winner of four WNBA championships with the Houston Comets and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Swoopes’s superstar status was already cemented when she addressed her relationship with a woman as an active player in 2005. While this has become more commonplace today, such an honest declaration was rare in that era. Although Swoopes eventually ended that relationship and married a man, she remains an important figure in the annals of LGBTQ athletics.
Diana Taurasi kept scoring and scoring and scoring throughout her entire career, eventually becoming the fastest player to rack up 6,000 career points in the W’s history in 2013. Taurasi celebrated the accomplishment the only way she knew how: by continuing to collect buckets, eventually becoming the WNBA’s all time leading scorer. In 2017, she also celebrated off the court by marrying former Mercury teammate Penny Taylor. We’d have suggested getting her some points for her wedding present but it turned out she already had 9,174 of those.
Candace Parker just came out publicly in late 2021 and has won two MVPs and two WNBA titles.