The debate on who is basketball’s Greatest of All Time (GOAT) is a recurring one in modern sports circles. While many disputes revolve around Lebron James and Michael Jordan, the GOAT debate in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is often overlooked. The WNBA has been overshadowed by the NBA for many years, but it is time that some of the WNBA greats get the respect they deserve. There are many players that deserve to be in the discussion of who deserves the GOAT title, but three players, Lisa Leslie, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings, shine at the top of the list. Their extensive accomplishments in college, the WNBA, and internationally distinguish themselves from other players as they succeeded on all stages.
Lisa Leslie deserves to be considered the GOAT for a variety of reasons. A four-time gold medalist with Team USA in the Olympics and a two-time WNBA champion, Leslie is one of the first household names from the WNBA. Her WNBA career started in 1997, the inaugural season for the league, and Leslie was named to the All-WNBA First Team (which is comprised of the five best players for the season). Leslie later followed this with back-to-back WNBA titles in 2001 and 2002 as Los Angeles captured the WNBA and NBA titles both of those years (Lakers won NBA championship). Leslie became well-known along Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal as they were the faces of LA’s dominant run. She won the WNBA MVP title three times and was named Defensive Player of the Year twice. The eight-time WNBA All-Star used her incredible athleticism to make history when she became the first player to dunk in a game. While she is currently only seventh on the career WNBA points list, she held the league records for points and rebounds when she retired in 2009. Leslie is a trailblazer that helped the WNBA grow to what it is today, which is why she deserves to be considered the GOAT.
Diana Taurasi, as the number one overall pick out of UCONN back in 2004, also deserves a spot on the list. After winning three NCAA championships at UCONN, she has played her entire career with the Phoenix Mercury, winning Rookie of the Year when she started in the WNBA. That was just the beginning of the accolades for Taurasi, as she has been named an All-Star nine times while also winning one WNBA MVP. Taurasi has also led the Mercury to three WNBA titles during her tenure and was awarded Finals MVP in two of those instances. When it comes to career numbers, Taurasi has scored the most points in WNBA history, and it is not close. Taurasi may not have had as much impact on the defensive end as Leslie, but it is hard not to consider her the GOAT based on her career accolades and extraordinary offensive ability.
Finally, we have Tamika Catchings, who joined the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020 after an outstanding career with the Indiana Fever. Catchings was another four-time Olympic gold medalist who also won a WNBA championship and NCAA championship during her career. Catchings is one of the greatest defensive players in history as she won five Defensive Player of the Year awards and led the WNBA in steals seven different times — the most career steals in WNBA history — all due to her incredible defensive prowess. She won WNBA Rookie of the Year in her first season just like Taurasi and gathered 10 All-Star nods during her career. She ranks in the top five all-time in points, rebounds, minutes and player efficiency rating which is why she deserves to be considered the GOAT.
All three of these players have a case for being called the Greatest of All Time as they have had incredible college, professional and Olympic careers. It is rare to see players have so much success at three different levels, but these women were all able to. Many other players have had great careers in the WNBA, but have not had the sheer impact on the game as these three women. By succeeding in college, the WNBA, and in the Olympics, these three women became well-known players that drew more fans to the WNBA. The breadth of incredible players in the WNBA illustrates just how elite talent level in the league runs. There are definitely also arguments for other players who were not looked at in this article to be considered the GOAT. But, with so many strong contenders, at the end of the day, it is up to each fan to name the true GOAT.