The 20 best WNBA players of All-Time

Who are the best WNBA players of all-time

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two decades, but the 2015-16 season marked the 20th WNBA Season. And in honor of twenty consecutive years of professional women’s basketball, the league announced their top 20 players in WNBA history.

Dubbed 20@20, the list of players include “scorers, playmakers, ball-handlers, rebounders, defensive stoppers, leaders and players who have brought out the best in their teammates. There are players who built the league, players who elevated the game to new heights and players who will carry the torch and inspire the next generation of superstars.”

The list is nearly split in half with 11 retired players and 9 current ones:

Best WNBA Players in History
Player Status
Seimone Augustus Active
Sue Bird* Active
Swin Cash Active
Tamika Catchings* Active
Cynthia Cooper* Retired
Yolanda Griffith* Retired
Becky Hammon Retired
Lauren Jackson* Retired
Lisa Leslie* Retired
Maya Moore Active
Deanna Nolan Retired
Candace Parker Active
Ticha Penicheiro Retired
Cappie Pondexter Active
Katie Smith* Retired
Sheryl Swoopes* Active
Diana Taurasi Active
Tina Thompson* Retired
Teresa Weatherspoon Retired
Lindsay Whalen Active

The asterisk next to a player’s name signifies that they were also chosen for the WNBA All-Decade Team that was celebrated at the league’s 10th anniversary mark. Nine of the ten players featured on that team are on the 20@20 squad — with the exception of Dawn Staley. We”ll get into that more in a minute.

What Do You Think of The List of Greatest WNBA Players Ever?

As with any list, there are bound to be some questions, arguments and “snubs”. The good news with this list, there’s very little room for error as more than half of the players are no-brainer “legends”; there’s just no arguing the accomplishments of these 18 ladies: Maya Moore, Yo Griffith, Leslie, Taurasi, LJ, Tina Thompson, Swoopes, Cooper, Whalen, Catchings, Cappie, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Ausgutus, Katie Smith, Ticha, Becky Hammon and Parker.

Outside of Becky Hammon and Candace Parker, all of the other players have won WNBA championships.

What of Deanna Nolan and Teresa Weatherspoon?

With 18 no-brainers, that leaves us with two players that I found to be surprising on the list: Deanna Nolan and Teresa Weatherspoon. It’s not that Nolan wasn’t a great player, but she wasn’t a superstar even in her time. That said, it’s more name-recognition than anything, but a quick scan of “Tweety’s” accomplishments: 3× WNBA champion, WNBA Finals MVP in 2006 and 5× WNBA All-Star puts that argument to rest.

So the real head-scratcher is Teresea Weatherspoon. Nothing against her, but she’s one of those players that the WNBA propped up as an ambassador, but never really proved out on the court in my opinion. Her name stands out even more so when she’s in the midst of game-changing players like Taurasi, Swoopes, Moore, Augustus, Parker and Whalen. Championships? None. Even being the #2 all-time leader in assists, considering the broader look at her statistical contributions, Weatherspoon just doesn’t add up.

Who are the best players in WNBA history

Especially since Dawn Staley was on both the all-decade team and all-15 year team, while Weatherspoon was only on the latter – this seems more than odd.

Both players played in the same era and both never won a WNBA championship, so it’s more than weird to choose Weatherspoon over Staley. Not that I think Staley deserves a spot on the team, but logic tells me that if the powers that be chose her for 10 and 15 anniversary teams, she should be on this one. Teresa Weatherspoon was a great college player, seems like a nice person and has done a great job staying involved with the league, but one of the best 20 players of all-time?

The WNBA Snub List

Let’s get to what you really want to talk about — the snubs. If there was one spot open on the list of greats, who would you choose to fill it? Let’s take a look at 21 past and present players to pick from.

Greatest WNBA Snubs
Janeth Arcain
Jennifer Azzi
Ruthie Bolton
Tina Charles
Katie Douglas
Elena Delle-Donne
Cheryl Ford
Sylvia Fowles
Jennifer Gillom
Brittney Griner
Chamique Holdsclaw
Shannon Johnson
Vickie Johnson
Angel McCoughtry
Taj McWilliams-Franklin
DeLisha Milton-Jones
Nykesha Sales
Tangela Smith
Dawn Staley
Penny Taylor
Natalie Williams

Delle-Donne and Charles are the only WNBA MVPs to not make the team, but they’re both relatively early in their careers so let’s revisit for the 25-year team. Same goes for Griner and Angel McCoughtry. McCoughtry has almost all of the attributes to be included. A dynamic player with name recognition, Rookie of the Year, 2x scoring champion. She would have easily made the list had she had one championship. If she keeps it up, she’ll be a lock for the 25 anniversary team.

Azzi, Staley and Natalie Williams had most of their damage in the ABL. And over time, the accomplishments and numbers that Gillom, Bolton, Nykeyshe Sales, Shannon and Vickie Johnson just don’t hold up. Plus none of the above won WNBA Titles.

Cheryl Ford, Tangela Smith, Penny Taylor, Delisha Milton, and Arcain were all very effective players, but weren’t primary enough in their careers and lack the name recognition, that admittedly isn’t important… but it is.

For me, it comes down to Sylvia Fowles and the body of work that both Katie Douglas and Taj McWilliams-Franklin have put together in their careers. All three have multiple all-star appearances under their belt and have won WNBA Championships. You could make an argument for any of them, but if you were to twist my arm — I would go with McWilliams-Franklin over Fowles only because TMF has had a longer career while Fowles is in her prime.

It’s not easy, there have been more than 850 players who have put on a WNBA jersey. Picking 20 athletes represents the top 2% (2.3%) of the players ever. Being honorable mention is still something to be proud of.

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