Unsure of legacy, Taurasi wants fourth gold
LONDON (AP) — Diana Taurasi’s already impressive Olympic resume isn’t finished.
The U.S. shooting guard has three gold medals and plans to be at the 2016 Rio Games looking to win a fourth.
Still, the 30-year-old Taurasi isn’t ready to pencil herself into an all-time starting lineup of U.S. Olympic women’s basketball players that would undoubtedly include four-time gold medalists Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards.
Others, though, say Taurasi belongs.
Taurasi averaged a team-high 12.4 points in the London Olympics to lead the U.S. to its fifth consecutive gold medal. She finds a way to win no matter the stage. She won three straight national championships at UConn, has two WNBA crowns with the Phoenix Mercury and has captured several Euroleague titles. And she plans to add more gold to her collection in Rio.
Despite her success, Taurasi has her own starting five.
“Start with Teresa Edwards, Cheryl Miller, Lisa (Leslie), Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson,” Taurasi said. “I’m sure I’m leaving out a million great names. You could go on about great players, but those five have impacted me the most. If I ever got that opportunity to get to that point, it would be really special.”
If she’s not there yet, Taurasi is putting herself in the discussion.
She continues to move up in the U.S women’s Olympic record book, ranking fifth in rebounding (79 boards) and assists (50) and seventh in scoring (254 points) — and her points have increased in each competition.
In 2004, Taurasi came off the bench and averaged 8.5 points a game. She averaged 10.9 as a starter in 2008 and, according to her, will be her prime in 2016 at age 34.
“She’s been amazing for USA Basketball,” said Sue Bird, who also has won three gold medals now. “She’s brought so much to the program.”
While LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony joined David Robinson as the only three-time Olympians on the men’s side, playing in multiple Olympics is commonplace for the women. Taurasi, Bird and Tamika Catchings became the sixth, seven and eighth women’s players to win three gold medals.
The three veterans joined an elite group with three that includes Leslie, Edwards, Katie Smith, Sheryl Swoopes and Dawn Staley.
U.S. coach Geno Auriemma believes that’s what sets apart the great ones like Taurasi.
“Go through the list of how many people have multiple,” he said. “To be able to do it once or twice and then do it three times, that’s longevity. … That’s saying something.”
Other players who could be considered to be in the lineup include former Globetrotter and two-time Olympic gold medalist Lynette Woodard and women’s basketball trailblazer Ann Meyers Drysdale, who signed a contract with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers in 1980.
“The fact that we’re talking about it says a lot about the women’s game,” said Meyers, who added that picking a starting lineup would leave some great players on the bench. “It’s a debate you usually have about the men’s game.”
Meyers said her five would include Edwards, Miller, Leslie and Taurasi. She also mentioned that her list leaves off players such as Swoopes, Staley, Carol Blazejowski and Katrina McClain, who holds the Olympic record for rebounds in a tournament (66).
Edwards said no list should be without McClain.
“You have to have the best rebounder of all time on your list,” Edwards said of her former Georgia and Olympic teammate. “But I could see me, Ann and Cheryl running the wing — that would be great.”
Carol Callan, who has been with USA Basketball since the late 1980s, says it’s an “impossible question”.
“There have been so many great players to come through the system; how can you choose some over others?” she said.
Taurasi is finding a way.