The WNBA has never been more popular. In fact, it’s widely considered the highest echelon of female athletics in North America. While there are talented female athletes competing in dozens of leagues, WNBA stars tend to see more coverage from analysts, higher paychecks (compared to other women’s leagues), and more lucrative sponsorship deals.
One of the latest developments in favor of the league is the rise of sports betting. For years, bettors have had access to a variety of NBA markets—and even NCAA March Madness lines. However, online betting is now pivoting toward the WNBA. With added interest and infrastructure, sportsbooks have taken note of the league’s rising popularity. Along with WNBA betting markets, fans can also find handy analysis guides, which are a staple in the industry.
Clearly, the WNBA is on the up and up. But it wouldn’t be where it was today without two huge contributions. First, the NBA has taken greater steps than its counterparts to support, promote, and fund the WNBA. Second, and most importantly, the WNBA is full of players who are willing to advocate for their league and women’s athletics—not just off the court, but also on the court.
Let’s count down some of the most influential players still active in the league.
Crème of the Crop: Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Sue Bird has played for the Storm since 2002 and is renowned for her advocacy for the league. Incidentally, her long-term partner is Megan Rapinoe, former captain of the national women’s soccer team—who is also an advocate for women’s sports. Bird’s primary contribution to the league was to step in as its top player and demonstrate that women’s basketball is competitive.
Some might even say Bird’s run in the WNBA makes her the Jordan of the league. Her stats are mind-blowing, including five Olympic gold medals (from 2004 to 2020) on top of her WNBA accolades. In the domestic league, Bird remains the career leader in terms of assists. She also leads in All-Star Game selections (12), has won four championships with the Storm, and has been selected eight times for the All-WNBA Team.
Leading the League: Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
Nneka Ogwumike is one of the most influential players in the WNBA for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, she represents other players. In 2016, she was elected as president of the Players’ Association—then re-elected for another three-year term in 2019. This gave Ogwumike the ability to directly advocate and represent her fellow players.
On the court, she also leaves an impact. She’s the only player to be named the WNBA MVP the same year she won a WNBA Finals. She was also named Rookie of the Year when she joined the Sparks in 2012. Since then, she’s also racked up five All-WNBA nods and five All-Defensive team selections.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
Lastly, let’s cover Diana Taurasi, one of the league’s most lethal players. She currently holds the record for the most All-WNBA selections with 14 total. Meanwhile, she’s tied for second with her 10 All-Star selections. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as Taurasi has landed just about every award the WNBA has to offer.
Along with her team selections, Taurasi has also brought home three Finals wins, one MVP nod, one Finals MVP nod, and has led the league five times in terms of scoring and on-time assists. From a statistical perspective, Taurasi is easily the most prolific offensive player of her generation.
Special Mention (Retired): Sheryl Swoopes
Like many other female trailblazers, Shery Swoopes helped lead her generation. She is one of only 27 female basketball players to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame—and for good reason. Swoopes was one of the first WNBA players to put the league on the map in the late 1990s thanks to her showmanship and skill.
She is one of only eleven female basketball players who has ever won an Olympic gold medal, WNBA title, FIBA World Cup Gold title, and NCAA Championship title. Similar to Bird, she is regarded as one of the best players to have ever played the game.