For a big celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month 2022ESPN Deportes presents this special series, Latinas in the WNBA – past, present and future:
Traditions and cultural values of Latina players
Diana Taurasi is proud of her Argentinian roots
Cuban-American Rebecca Lobo was the first Latina player in the WNBA
Evina Westbrook is the first female Mexican-American player in the WNBA.
The WNBA needs to hire more Latinas at every level.
This year, Katie Benzan became the first Dominican player in the WNBA
Terri Acosta, of the NY Liberty, is the only Latina physical trainer in the WNBA
How hard is it to be a young free agent and what are the Latin pledges today
If Emmanuel ‘Manu’ Ginóbili is the Michael Jordan of Latin basketball, what is Diana Taurasi? For the late star Kobe Bryant, for example, Taurasi was the “White Mamba,” the highest praise he could give. But more importantly, the idol of his daughter who is also deceased, Gigi Bryant.
Born to an Italian father and Argentinian mother, Taurasi is a five-time Olympic gold medalist, 10-time All-Star and all-time leading scorer in the WNBA, where he has won three championships.
In addition, she has two NCAA titles with the UConn Huskies on her resume, where she is at the top (with two different generations), and a six-time Euroleague champion, among other individual and collective awards.
If Manu is our ‘MJ’, Taurasi is next. The insurmountable.
But beyond his heritage, how was Taurasi’s journey to stardom and how does he identify with his Latin roots?
“Ninety percent” Argentinian-Italian
Taurasi moved with her parents and sister at the age of eight to Chino, a city in San Bernardino County, California, USA.
The number sport in his household was always soccer/football. a “mix” that supported Taurasi’s development as an athlete. The footwork made her a spectacular basketball player as a teenager, although she also looked like a soccer player.
“I’m 90 percent Argentinian-Italian and 10 percent American,” Taurasi told ESPN Deportes on the sidelines in 2016. “In the house they ate Argentinian food, Castilian food and soccer… I still have a Latin and Italian spirit,” he added we.
Then came the big decision: to choose basketball or football? She was good at both. But the first basketball offer came in the eighth grade. Taurasi already knew what she wanted.
Five years later, Taurasi committed to UConn in the NCAA after a visit from coach Geno Auriemma, who also has Italian roots. “I told him if he wanted to get to the next level, he had to come here (Connecticut). And I wasn’t wrong,” Auriemma told The Players Tribune.
Taurasi’s transition was not easy. In his first Final Four appearance, he fell on the Huskies’ side against Notre Dame and had one of the worst games of his career. The answer? Three consecutive championships from 2002-04.
“In 2002, we had possibly the best NCAA women’s team in history. What Diana did in her junior and senior years, no one had done before. Two titles in a row with two different lineups,” Auriemma said.
In 2002, Taurasi led that legendary UConn team to a perfect 39-0 mark along with Sue Bird, who we’ll have more of later, Tamika Williams and Asjha Jones, among others. Another big challenge lay ahead.
A legend in the WNBA, the Olympic team and Russia
Taurasi was drafted in the first round of the 1994 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury, with whom she quickly established herself and won Rookie of the Year.
She was the leading scorer five times, including the 2009 season, when she was named the most valuable player. That year he secured the second of three titles in his career. The other two were in 2007 and 2014.
She is one of only four players in league history with at least two playoff MVPs. He also has 14 selections to All-WNBA teams, a historic mark.
Taurasi is the top scorer in history and also the top scorer in assists. In October 2021, she was voted by the fans as the best player in WNBA history, the GOAT.
“Her career has been significant and speaks for itself, although some of my favorite moments with Diana have nothing to do with her excellence on the court,” Rebeca Lobo told ESPN Digital’s Michele LaFountain.
The Phoenix Mercury star answered a question in Spanish and gave a summary of his last days. Her teammate Brittney Griner’s reaction is worth its weight in gold.
“Sometimes when she’s in a press conference sitting next to a teammate and someone asks a question in Spanish, Diana answers and the reaction from the teammates is priceless. Taurasi, it’s just different,” Lobo continued. , a UConn legend, Olympic medalist and current ESPN women’s basketball commentator.
“Diana is one of those players who crosses the sport. I think she has the international respect of all the players and fans in the NBA. She’s one of the women who has really crossed that line. But also being who she is and being proud of her heritage, it’s really fun to see and I think it’s something that can really inspire some of the young women from similar backgrounds,” said Lobo.
Mexican-American Evina Westbrook (Storm/Mystics) and Dominican Katie Benzan (Mystics), who debuted this year, are some of the Latina players who represent or have represented their country in the WNBA. Also others who are no longer, or are free agents, such as Puerto Rican Carla Cortijo (Atlanta Dream) and Arella Guirantes (LA Sparks), among others such as Mexican-American Raina Pérez.
We continue our Hispanic Heritage Month, ‘Latinas in the WNBA – Past, Present and Future’ with a tribute to Diana Taurasi, through the eyes of a Latina in the WNBA.
“Taurasi is an icon, not just in women’s basketball, but in all sports. She’s in her 40s now and she’s still at the top,” Benzan told ESPN Digital. “She is a role model for me and other young women,” he added.
Taurasi’s success does not only translate to the WNBA, as along the way she collects five Olympic gold medals: (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2021). Only Bird has the same number of gold medals. Gold was also hung at the 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
Meanwhile, at the international club level, he won six Euroleagues and seven national championships in Russia, where he won three more trophies and was MVP three times. Likewise, he added another scepter in Turkey. Wherever he has gone, Taurasi has conquered. A legend.
Her relationship and resemblance to Sue Bird
Between Bird, who announced his retirement a week ago, and Taurasi, they have a combined five NCAA championships, seven WNBA championships and five Olympic gold medals. Both were also first-round draft picks in the WNBA.
“Now Diana will be the oldest in the WNBA,” Bird told ESPN with a laugh.
“Sue (Bird) has always been one of the most honest people I’ve ever met. Our legacies will always be linked to each other,” Taurasi said.
The two worked together not only at UConn, but also on the Russian and US Olympic teams.
While Taurasi has not commented on his future, Bird recently played his final professional game in the playoffs against the Las Vegas Aces.
Like her friend, colleague and now former rival, she played her entire career with one team.
Bird is the best assistant in the history of the competition and the one who has played the most games. Likewise, the ‘Top Ten’ in points, field goals and triples.
Bird and Taurasi are the only players in WNBA history with at least 500 games played. Bird is the only player to win titles (4) in three different decades.
Taurasi could return for one more season, and who knows, try to find a fourth championship Bird has under his belt.
Diana, more than the Michael Jordan of Latin basketball, is unique, without precedent. She didn’t represent Argentina like Manu, nor like Oscar Schmidt with Brazil, but she is the one with the best summary.
Moreover, his heart has always been with Argentina. What’s better than that?
Congratulations, gauchos, boasting two of the greatest players in the history of basketball in our region.