Story by Maddyn Johnstone-Thomas
With the Tokyo Olympics set to begin in just a few months, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi is gearing up to win her fifth Olympic gold medal. Her first run with the team was during the 2004 Olympics in Greece, and ever since she has been unstoppable.
However, her time as an Olympian may be coming to an end soon. Only time will tell.
“We talk about it all the time,” Taurasi said to the media while at the USA Basketball camp. “I mean realistically speaking, if we get a chance to go to Tokyo, it would probably be the last one. There always comes a time where you really have to look at the situation, for yourself and for USA basketball.”
A three-time WNBA champion and nine-time WNBA all-star, Taurasi is a role model for young girls aspiring to play basketball. She spoke about the recent disparities that went on between the weight rooms at the men’s NCAA tournament and the women’s NCAA tournament. Taurasi hopes that up and coming women’s players will have a chance to continue making change.
“These kids have a different platform,” Taurasi said. “They’re very outspoken. You know with social media, things spread like wildfires…For these kids to be able to do this, it shows a lot of character…When you look at the weight room, it’s just a complete joke. From top to bottom, the NCAA is a joke when it comes to women’s sports, we know that.”
Taurasi also elaborated on how men’s players at the collegiate level are able to play one year and declare for the draft, while women’s players are not able to.
Sue Bird, also a four-time Olympian and a four-time WNBA champion, noted that the issue has been talked about in the latest CBA negotiations.
“I mean, why would women have a choice?” Taurasi said. “I think half the battle is having the choice to do it and then you go on and you make the best decision. You should have that option. It is a career path you’re taking. If you’re the best, you should be able to keep getting better.”
There may soon be some new stars emerging in the WNBA, such as Arizona’s Aari McDonald, UConn’s Paige Bueckers, or Iowa’s Cailtin Clark. Bird and Taurasi have paved the way for these female athletes to become who they are today.
“There’s this momentum right now, especially in women’s sports and women’s basketball and we want that momentum to carry on after you graduated from college,” Taurasi said. “That shouldn’t be the best years of your basketball career, when you get to the pros that should be the best years of the basketball career.”
Bird and Taurasi have competed against each other on the court for years, and have also been teammates together on the Olympic team.
Their friendship is something that Taurasi admires, and as the two get to the later stages of their careers, their relationship is something they appreciate even more.
As they embark on possibly their last Olympic experience, it’s been fun for them to reflect on their relationship and how it has evolved.
“It’s been amazing, and 20 years later we get to this USA camp but we’re still acting like 18-year-olds,” Taurasi said. “We just generally like being around each other. You have one of your best friends there that always has your back…You get that sense of calm when you know you have your best friend there to have your back. She’s had an impact on my life in a lot of ways.”