PHOENIX — When Mercury star Diana Taurasi came off a screen near the right wing outside the 3-point line early in the third quarter Thursday night, she was sitting at 9,997 career points and starting to heat up. Her mind was thinking about one thing: Shoot the ball.
Nothing was going to stop her from taking a shot the next time the ball came her way.
When teammate Moriah Jefferson hit Taurasi, covered by a double-team, with a pass 28 feet from the basket, Taurasi, in typical fashion, let it fly. She made the 3-pointer with 8:23 left in the third quarter to become the first WNBA player to reach 10,000 points.
“At that point, I was just trying to find a good shot — or a bad shot,” Taurasi said. “It was going up.
“But I’m kind of happy it happened with a 3. I’m happy that someone set a screen. I’m happy that someone passed me the ball. That’s how basketball is played, with everyone having a little part, and it’s perfect.”
Taurasi was as perfect as could be in the Mercury’s 91-71 win over the Atlanta Dream at the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix, snapping a four-game losing streak. The outcome never mattered, though. The 7,564 people in attendance, who had the chance to see literal goats at a petting zoo set up behind one of the baskets, came to see one thing and one thing only: Taurasi make history — again.
She did that and then some.
Taurasi finished with 42 points, her most in a game since 2010 and the most she has scored in regulation in her career. Her season high was also her first 40-point game since July 14, 2010, according to ESPN Stats & Information. At age 41, she is the oldest player with a 40-point game in WNBA history.
She now has 10,024 points for her career and counting.
“It was a cool night,” Taurasi said. “You couldn’t have wrote this any better, for our fans and for our city.”
Taurasi started the game relatively slow. She came into Thursday needing 18 points to hit 10,000. She scored five points in the first quarter and another five in the second. She came alive after halftime, scoring five points — including a 3 at the buzzer of the 24-second clock — in 66 seconds. Then came the history-making 3.
She didn’t stop there, though.
Taurasi had 32 points in the second half, the second most in any half in WNBA history.
After the game, Taurasi said she didn’t think much at all about reaching 10,000 points, including during the game. Her mom, Lily, however, wouldn’t let her forget it.
“After the game my mom will be like, ’49 more points, do that tomorrow.’ … ‘OK, mom,'” Taurasi said with a laugh. “Or my sister, and then trying to plan it out of when it’s going to happen and [wife] Penny [Taylor] and the kids are in Australia for family things, but it happened when it happened, and it was a great night for our city.”
Taurasi’s 10,000th point came on the 1,344th 3-point field goal of her WNBA career. The only other player in league history with at least 1,000 3-pointers is Sue Bird with 1,001.
“On behalf of the WNBA and basketball fans worldwide, I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Diana on reaching the incredible milestone of 10,000 points as she continues to author new chapters [in] an illustrious WNBA career,” league commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “Diana’s achievement stands as a testament to her skill, determination, and unwavering dedication to the game, which along with her competitive nature, has captivated fans with her incredible scoring ability, clutch performances, and unparalleled basketball IQ. We are honored to witness this milestone.”
After Taurasi hit the 3 to reach 10,000 points, she sauntered down the court with her arms spread wide. The game was paused so Mercury general manager Jim Pitman could present Taurasi with the game ball and a small celebration could take place with her teammates. Streamers, facing away from the court, were shot off.
During timeouts, brief videos played of Taurasi’s teammates congratulating her.
After the game, the Mercury held a ceremony for Taurasi that included gifts, such as a custom pair of Air Jordans, a gold-painted commemorative basketball and a commemorative bottle of champagne. A video tribute was played and included well wishes from the likes of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, tennis great Billie Jean King, South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley, former Phoenix Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, former Suns star Steve Nash, former WNBA stars Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
Taurasi spoke and mentioned her parents, Lily and Mario, who were in attendance. Mercury center Brittney Griner, who has been away from the team since July 29 to address her mental health, joined the celebration on the court wearing a black Taurasi jersey.
“Obviously having B.G. back, again, feels great,” Taurasi said. “We’ve just been through so much in the last 10 years and I know basketball is so important, but beyond that, she’s always had my back and I’ve had her back, and it was just nice for her to be back, and we can move forward in this season.”
Taurasi made her way around the court, signing autographs and, at one point, going into the stands to greet fans.
She basked in the aftermath of reaching 10,000, something Taurasi normally doesn’t do when she reaches historic marks or records.
“I usually don’t let myself enjoy these moments,” Taurasi said. “But tonight, because there was so many people in the building that have really helped me through all this, and I think that gets lost sometimes when one person gets a lot of awards, a lot of attention, whatever it may be.
“You don’t go far in life without really good people in your corner, and I’ve just been so lucky and grateful to have my family for one and friends that are family now that have been in my corner since Day 1, and that was really special tonight.”
The Mercury’s locker room was covered in plastic to prepare for a celebration that included champagne. Taurasi said she will celebrate her achievement privately with a “grown-up dinner at a nice restaurant” with some close friends who have been with her during her journey.
After the celebration and hoopla died down, Taurasi, wearing a shirt commemorating her reaching 10,000 points, was reflective, talking about being the child of immigrants and discussing her family and past coaches.
“I’m really thankful for my teammates because moments like this, it’s everyone’s moment,” Taurasi said. ” And they really came with me, and they wanted me to do it tonight. And I said, ‘Boy, it would’ve been terrible if I only scored 17 tonight and pass out shirts with 9,999.’ But, luckily, it happened. And I’m just really grateful.”
She also admitted to feeling a bit of the pressure.
“I came here a little bit nervous,” she said. “I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I just wanted to get it over with for a sense of relief, but at the same time, I was just focused on trying to win a game. And I know that sounds very minute, but the position that we’re in, we were just trying to win a game for our sanity, for a reason to come back to practice tomorrow. And when you focus on the little things, the big things kind of take care of themselves.
“So overall it was just a great night. I think it was a great celebration of a basketball, men or women’s.”