Women’s basketball has become a sensation in the past few decades and the WNBA is a major reason why. Since the league’s first season in 1997, it has seen its list of teams grow along with its talent pool. The players coming out of college and the international game have only gotten better, as each new season’s stars threaten to burn up the record books.
We’ve chosen the best players in WNBA history based purely on what they’ve accomplished on the league’s courts. The result is a list of women who have elevated their sport to a new level. Where did your favorite player land?
30. Katie Douglas (2001-2014)
Renowned as a great scorer and defender, Katie Douglas earned spots on three All-WNBA and five All-Defensive squads in her long career. Douglas helped her teams to the playoffs in 10 of her 14 seasons, where she racked up enough points to be the 10th leading scorer in WNBA postseason history. Her average of 1.5 steals per game is one of the best in history and led her to rank inside the top 10 for career steals. The title she won with her hometown Indiana Fever in 2012 is just the cherry on top.
29. Taj McWilliams-Franklin (1999-2012)
A champion with the Detroit Shock and Minnesota Lynx, Taj McWilliams-Franklin was one of the league’s great glass cleaners. In 14 seasons, she averaged 6.8 rebounds to go along with 11.4 points per game, helping her land on six All-Star teams and two All-WNBA teams. McWilliams-Franklin was always smart with the ball, racking up a 49% career shooting mark, which is the fourth best in history. She also ranks seventh in career rebounds.
28. Liz Cambage (2011-Present)
Liz Cambage has had an up and down relationship with the WNBA so far, but is nevertheless one of the great international players in its history. The Australian has only played four seasons since being drafted in 2011 by the Tulsa Shock, a franchise she made no secret about not caring for. In that short span, she’s made three All-Star teams and set the league’s single-game scoring record when she poured in 53 points in a 2018 contest while playing with the Dallas Wings. Cambage’s averages of 16.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game puts her among the best players ever, even if her attitude toward the WNBA hasn’t been exemplary.
27. Cheryl Ford (2003-2009)
Knee problems may have severely shortened Cheryl Ford’s career but she was brilliant during her seven seasons in the WNBA. In that span, she helped the Detroit Shock win three championships in six playoff appearances and led the league in rebounding twice. She nearly averaged a double double for her career, with 10.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, and is one of only 13 players in WNBA history to have a 20-point, 20-rebound game. Her rebounding average is the second best in league history.
26. Katie Smith (1999-2013)
A coach now in the league she helped build, Katie Smith is passing her immense knowledge of the game down to a new generation. During her own career, which lasted 15 seasons, Smith led the Shock to two championships. She was a WNBA All-Star seven times and an All-WNBA selection four times, eventually landing her in both the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Smith ranks in the top five for career points and minutes played in WNBA history, proving her to be one of the league’s most consistent stars.
25. DeWanna Bonner (2009-Present)
Before being traded this year, DeWanna Bonner spent 10 very productive seasons with the Phoenix Mercury. She helped lead the franchise to nine playoff appearances and two WNBA title wins in that span. The three-time All-Star has averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game so far and had arguably the best year of her career in 2019. Bonner’s scoring output has ranked her in the top 25 for career scoring, which is a list she will undoubtedly continue to climb.
24. Candice Dupree (2006-Present)
A former teammate of DeWanna Bonner’s, Candice Dupree has earned her reputation as one of the best power forwards in WNBA history. She’s averaged 14.5 points and 6.6 rebounds in the course of 14 years in the league so far, placing her prominently on several all-time statistical lists. The seven-time All-Star pick ranks sixth in career points and third in shooting percentage, making nearly 50% of her career field goals. Dupree also ranks eighth in career rebounding, showing how essential she’s been to her teams on both sides of the ball.
23. Skylar Diggins-Smith (2013-Present)
After a stellar college career at Notre Dame, Skylar Diggins-Smith came into the WNBA in 2013 as a hot commodity. She’s been able to live up to the hype so far, making her way onto four All-Star teams and three All-WNBA teams in her six seasons as a pro. At 5 feet 9 inches tall, she’s far from the most physically imposing player on the court but her skills as a scorer and playmaker have led her to average 15.9 points and 4.9 assists per game for her career. Those figures rank her in the top 20 in WNBA history for per-game scoring and assist averages.
22. Breanna Stewart (2016-Present)
Breanna Stewart has only been in the WNBA for three seasons so far but she’s already done enough to rank among the all-time greats. After a legendary NCAA career where she led UConn to four national titles in four seasons, Stewart led the Seattle Storm to a WNBA title in 2018, when she was also named MVP of the league and the WNBA Finals. She’s averaged a remarkable 20 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game for her short career thus far and currently has the eighth best player efficiency rating in history. An Achilles injury forced her to miss the 2019 season but if she comes back in full force, she has the ability to top this list some day.
21. Lindsay Whalen (2004-2018)
No player in WNBA history has won as many games as Lindsay Whalen. The legendary point guard won 323 contests in 15 seasons before retiring in 2018 and focusing full-time on coaching college basketball in her home state of Minnesota. While with the Minnesota Lynx, Whalen won an incredible four WNBA championships and was a five-time All-WNBA selection at the point guard position. She ranks near the top of virtually every offensive stat category in league history, including 15th in career points, eighth in career shooting percentage and third in career assists, where she’s one of only three players with at least 2,000 of them.
20. Seimone Augustus (2006-Present)
Like her longtime teammate, Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus was an instrumental part in bringing four championships to the Minnesota Lynx. The 2011 WNBA Finals MVP ranks 11th in history for career points, thanks to her average of 15.9 points per game over the span of 14 seasons so far. She’s been an All-Star pick eight times and an All-WNBA pick six times, establishing her as one of the most respected players in the game today. You don’t often see shooting guards that make nearly half of their shots but Augustus’ career shooting percentage of 0.48 is one of the five best in league history.
19. Cappie Pondexter (2006-2018)
Her fiery point guard play for 13 seasons made Cappie Pondexter one of the most recognizable players in the WNBA. The two-time champion with the Phoenix Mercury was named WNBA Finals MVP in 2007, in just her second season as a pro. The seven-time All-Star ranks fourth in career points, thanks to her stellar scoring average of 16.4 points per game. She also ranks seventh in career assists, showing she was as good at creating plays for teammates as she was at finishing them herself.
18. Yolanda Griffith (1999-2009)
A first-ballot Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer, Yolanda Griffith was as gifted a center as the league has ever had. “Yo-Yo” averaged 13.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per night during her 11 seasons, which saw her make the All-Star Team eight times. For her remarkable rookie season in 1999, where she averaged a double double of 18.8 points and 11.3 rebounds, Griffith was named league MVP. She helped lead the now-defunct Sacramento Monarchs to their only title in 2005, when she was also named WNBA Finals MVP.
While she doesn’t rank as highly in overall career totals as others on this list, Griffith is a monster in advanced analytics, where she ranks in the all-time top 10 for win shares and player efficiency rating.
17. Nneka Ogwumike (2012-Present)
One of the best power forwards of the current generation of WNBA players, Nneka Ogwumike has proven she can basically do it all. The 2016 league MVP also led the Los Angeles Sparks to a championship that year, while averaging nearly 20 points and 9.1 rebounds per night. In eight seasons so far, she’s racked up more accolades than many players do in entire careers, being a six-time All-Star, four-time All-WNBA pick and five-time All-Defensive pick. The fact that Ogwumike’s teams have never missed the playoffs during her career so far also speaks volumes about her impact on the floor.
16. Chamique Holdsclaw (1999-2010)
When you talk about women that could dominate a basketball game on their own, Chamique Holdsclaw has to come up. She’s one of only three players in WNBA history to record multiple 20-point, 20-rebound games, doing so in 2002 and 2003 while playing with the Washington Mystics. In her 11 seasons in the league, Holdsclaw averaged 16.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game but she unfortunately never won a title. Perhaps the ultimate workhorse, she ranks first in WNBA history for average minutes played per game among players who’ve played in at least 200 games.
15. Angel McCoughtry (2009-Present)
After being drafted first overall in 2009 by the Atlanta Dream, Angel McCoughtry has more than lived up to the massive expectations of her. In nine seasons so far, the small forward has proven herself to be among the best defenders in WNBA history, being named to eight All-Defensive squads to go along with six All-WNBA selections. She’s averaged 2.1 steals per game for her career, ranking her in the top 10 for total steals already, but its her scoring prowess that makes her even more dangerous. McCoughtry has averaged 19.1 points per game so far, putting her in the top 20 for career scoring despite playing fewer than 300 games at this point.
14. Sue Bird (2002-Present)
Sue Bird is one of the most decorated players in basketball history — regardless of gender — and one of the WNBA’s greatest icons. No player in league history has played in more games or spent more minutes on the court than she did in her 16-season career. Those years included 11 All-Star selections, eight All-WNBA selections and three championships, all with the Seattle Storm. Her averages of 12.1 points and 5.6 assists per game may not be as eye-popping as others on this list but she’s been playing the long game and is the league’s all-time assists leader, while also ranking among the top 10 for points and steals.
13. Tina Charles (2010-Present)
As soon as Tina Charles came into the WNBA in 2010, she showed herself to be among the best centers in league history. She became the first player ever — and one of only two to date — to have three 20-point, 20-rebound performances in a career. The 2012 league MVP has been named to the All-WNBA squad in eight of her 10 seasons so far and has quickly vaulted up the league record books by averaging 18.1 points and 9.5 rebounds a game. Charles has the ability to go down as the best player in WNBA history but the only thing missing from her resume so far is a championship.
12. Tina Thompson (1997-2013)
In terms of longevity, nobody can touch Tina Thompson. She was a leading force on those legendary Houston Comets teams that won the first four consecutive WNBA titles after the league started in 1997 and would be a powerhouse for 17 seasons before retiring with a ton of records to her name. The nine-time All-Star and eight-time All-WNBA selection is the second leading scorer in league history and is one of only three players to have scored at least 7,000 points. The two-time Hall of Famer also ranks sixth in career rebounds, fifth in win shares and second in minutes played.
11. Sylvia Fowles (2008-Present)
Towering over most opponents at 6 feet 6 inches, Sylvia Fowles has also proven to be head and shoulders above them in terms of raw skill. The seven-time All-WNBA and All-Defensive selection has already set the league’s record for career double-doubles and she’s probably still got plenty left. She’s also one of only two players to record three 20-point, 20-rebound games, showing why she’s been essential to two championships for the Minnesota Lynx. She’s the second leading rebounder in WNBA history, the best in terms of rebounds per game (9.8) and has the best shooting percentage in league history, making an insane 59.3% of all her shots so far.
10. Brittney Griner (2013-Present)
There have been 22 slam dunks recorded in WNBA history and Brittney Griner has been responsible for 14 of them. There may have never been a more fearsome physical presence in women’s basketball than the star center, who stands at 6 feet 8 inches and will not hesitate to posterize you. In seven seasons so far, Griner has been named an All-Star and All-Defensive pick six times and an All-WNBA pick five times. The Phoenix Mercury have never missed the playoffs since they drafted her first overall in 2013 and Griner helped them win a title in 2014.
Her averages of 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and an all-time best 3.0 blocks per game make her one of the great centers in history.
9. Cynthia Cooper (1997-2003)
In many ways, WNBA fans got robbed when it comes to witnessing Cynthia Cooper’s greatness — but she accomplished more in five seasons than most players have in entire careers. She was 34 years old when the league launched in 1997 but she dominated it and players a decade younger than her for the five years she played before retirement. In that time, Cooper led the Comets to four consecutive championships and was named WNBA Finals MVP all four times. She was also a two-time league MVP, earning that honor in each of the WNBA’s first two seasons.
8. Sheryl Swoopes (1997-2011)
An athletic freak who lived to make defenders sweat, Sheryl Swoopes was one of the first breakout stars of the WNBA in its early days. The two-time Hall of Famer helped the Houston Comets win the first four league championships in WNBA history and was named MVP of the league three times in her 12 seasons. Her averages of 15 points and 4.9 rebounds per game have been surpassed by plenty of other great players but Swoopes remains one of the most legendary players in WNBA history for good reason.
She was the first player to ever record a triple-double in the WNBA and is still the only one to ever have a triple-double in the playoffs.
7. Elena Delle Donne (2013-Present)
Another current star who could easily climb this list even more in the future is Elena Delle Donne. The forward has proven herself to be one of the best shooters in WNBA history, no matter where she’s pulling up from. In 2019, Delle Donne became the first WNBA player to ever join the vaunted 50/40/90 club, which means she shot at least 50% from the floor, 40% from three-point range and 90% from the free throw line for an entire season. Her career free throw shooting percentage of 93.8% is the best in league history and it’s not even close.
In seven seasons so far, Delle Donne has been a six-time All-Star and two-time league MVP, and she led the Washington Mystics to their first championship in 2019.
6. Lauren Jackson (2001-2012)
The 2020 class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame will include this 6-foot-5-inch powerhouse who is arguably the best international player in WNBA history. Lauren Jackson has made plenty of basketball history in her native Australia as well as in America, including being a three-time WNBA MVP and a two-time champion with the Seattle Storm, where she spent her entire career. In 12 seasons, Jackson was an eight-time All-WNBA pick, a seven-time All-Star and a five-time All-Defensive selection, giving her as many accolades as anyone who’s ever suited up.
Her career averages of 18.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game show how valuable she was but her advanced statistics make her case even better, as Jackson ranks second in career win shares and third in player efficiency rating.
5. Candace Parker (2008-Present)
The heir apparent to Lisa Leslie’s style of dominant WNBA ball, Candace Parker was drafted first overall by the L.A. Sparks in 2008 and they’ve never let her go. The 6-feet-4-inch center joins Leslie as the only two players in WNBA history to record a triple-double, a slam dunk and a 20-point, 20-rebound night in a career. Parker led the Sparks to a championship in 2016, where she was also named WNBA Finals MVP. She has also twice been named league MVP. In 12 seasons so far, she’s been named an All-WNBA pick eight times and her teams have only missed the playoffs twice.
4. Tamika Catchings (2002-2016)
Indiana Fever icon Tamika Catchings is joining the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020 and it was an easy call for the voting committee. After all, the former league MVP was named to an incredible 12 All-WNBA and All-Defensive squads in her 15-season career. She ranks in the top five of many important all-time career stats, including points, playoff points, rebounds, minutes and player efficiency rating. Catchings is also the greatest thief in WNBA history by far, being the only player to ever record at least 1,000 steals and forcing 300 more of them than number two.
The 2012 WNBA champion also easily tops the all-time list for win shares, showing how valuable she was to her Fever teams.
3. Maya Moore (2011-Present)
Sports Illustrated has called Maya Moore the greatest winner in women’s basketball history — and it’s very hard to argue against that claim. With championships at the NCAA, Olympic and international level, Moore already had enough trophies to fill a couple of rooms, but with her WNBA hardware it’s getting ridiculous. From 2011-2017, she led the Minnesota Lynx to four championships and was named league MVP in 2014. They made the playoffs in all eight seasons she’s played so far and Moore was named to the All-WNBA squad in seven of them.
Then, in 2018, she stunned the league by walking away in her prime and taking an indefinite sabbatical to focus on issues like criminal justice reform. WNBA fans are no doubt hoping they’ll get to see this brilliant player take the court again and continue to carve her on-court legacy.
2. Diana Taurasi (2004-Present)
In terms of pure numbers, it’s mighty hard to argue with Diana Taurasi. Arguably the best guard in WNBA history, she’s a three-time champion who has averaged 19.6 points per game in a career that has lasted 15 seasons so far. No player in the league has scored more points than her and it’s not even close, with Taurasi outpacing second place by more than 1,000 points. The 13-time All-WNBA selection has an offensive style that simply can’t be stopped, giving her by far the best scoring average of any player that’s played anywhere near her number of games, which stands above 430 at this point.
Due to her historic NCAA run at UConn, she’s also arguably the most famous women’s basketball player of this millennium.
1. Lisa Leslie (1997-2009)
Lisa Leslie was a charter member of the WNBA in 1997 and players today are still trying to match the game she executed each night on the court. She was remarkably agile for her towering height of 6 feet 5 inches and used that to wreck defenders on a nightly basis, becoming arguably the league’s first household name. Leslie was the first player to ever dunk in a WNBA game, forever changing how many casual fans viewed women’s basketball and she had maybe the single most dominant game in league history in 2004, when she finished the night with 29 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocks.
A three-time WNBA MVP, two-time champion and 12-time All-WNBA selection, Leslie was a phenomenon and an incredible player all around. She still ranks in the top five for career rebounds and blocks and seventh in career points, despite being out of the game for more than a decade.