Diana Taurasi sat on the bench as Team USA took on the WNBA All-Stars, a position that has become both uncomfortable and familiar to her over the past few years as arguably the greatest player in the history of women’s basketball. With her ICONIC BUN in place, Diana Taurasi sat on the bench as Team USA took on the WNBA All-Stars. The Wednesday night game in Las Vegas earlier this month served as a warm-up for the 12 players who will attempt to lead the United States to its seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal, as well as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the professional league that was born as a result of the country’s Olympic success.
Taurasi, who was the face of both teams, did not take a shot or a pass.
13 days before she was scheduled to begin her quest for an unprecedented fifth Olympic basketball gold medal, a sprained hip provided the latest twist in a storey that will go down in basketball history as one of the most remarkable in history. Taurasi, 39, is the all-time leading scorer in the WNBA, a three-time WNBA champion, and a three-time NCAA champion. She is a clutch and brash playmaker who commands your attention with a no-look pass here, a game-winning 3-pointer there, and an expletive-laced tongue-lashing and an icy glare in between. Taurasi is a clutch and brash playmaker who commands your attention with a
As well-regarded as the 10-time All-Star is for her on-court accomplishments, she has established herself as the game’s most formidable adversary. When she goes to the gym, she elicits hatred from the other members. In order to avoid setting her off, opposing players remind each other that her response may be the type of game that continues to build her legacy while demoralising everyone in its path. It’s possible that the White Mamba, as Kobe Bryant dubbed her, will strike.
In addition, Taurasi says, “I wouldn’t like me either.” “I completely understand what you’re saying. There are some aspects of my personality that I dislike. I’m a little too outspoken for my own good. I’m abrasive and confrontational. Lots of things are going on here… I understand why people don’t like me, and I apologise for that. And it’s not a problem for me. That’s perfectly acceptable. That’s perfectly acceptable.”
However, behind her brash on-court confidence is a woman who has fought tenaciously for the right to remain anonymous. She isn’t on social media at all, which is unusual for an athlete in today’s world. Other than basketball, she despises doing interviews about anything else. While remaining silent, she’s spent the past half-decade transforming her life off the court in the hopes of landing this opportunity in Tokyo, knowing it could be her last.
She decided to give up late-night clubbing. She no longer consumes meat. Penny Taylor, a former teammate of hers, became her husband. Leo was born, and she became his mother. She was able to overcome her injuries. She was able to overcome her loneliness. She had come face to face with the end. Throughout it all, the daughter of Argentine and Italian immigrants fought to ensure that the sacrifices of her parents were not forgotten. She is now battling to earn the respect of her own son.
Like her or not, this is Diana Taurasi.
She couldn’t seem to take her gaze away from him. When Diana Taurasi arrived at a Los Angeles hospital on the first day of March in 2018, she was taken in by the experience.
Taylor’s son, Leo, had arrived just a few minutes before and was now curled up against her chest.
Taurasi, who was 35 at the time, recalls saying, “He’s beautiful.”
Leo opened his eyes and looked at Taurasi for no more than a split second before closing his eyes once more firmly. Taurasi was head over heels in love.
“It completely transformed me,” she says. “It was exactly that moment. It was just at that moment. That brief window of opportunity. And that was the end of it.”
Taurasi’s life as a parent had begun, along with all of the emotions and responsibilities that go along with it.
According to Taurasi, “it’s true, it’s crazy, when they say you love that kid more than you love yourself,” she says. “I mean, there aren’t many people for whom you would go to any lengths. I would go to any length to help that little boy. Right now, he is the centre of our universe. “He’s everything to me.”
Taurasi is living a life that few could have predicted. Her family had always assumed she would marry and start a family of her own. The only thing they didn’t anticipate was her starting one until after she retired.
She didn’t know either.
Taurasi and Sue Bird, who have been best friends since their days at the University of Connecticut, joked about being parents in the WNBA a decade ago. Imagine finishing a WNBA game and then having to push a stroller back to the car afterward.
When Taurasi’s dream became a reality, Bird poked him in the ribs, saying, “How’s that stroller feel?”
Taurasi and Taylor didn’t make the decision to start a family on the spur of the moment. A long-standing disagreement between the former Phoenix Mercury teammates resulted in “a lot” of discussions about children over the years. Expectations, concerns, and questions were all laid out in front of the audience. Taylor explains that it was a gradual process, but they never reached a point where having or not having children was a deal-breaker for them.
“As with anything, you grow and change, and your expectations change, and all of that, but we always loved each other,” Taylor says of her relationship with her ex-boyfriend. “So it was really just a matter of getting through the process to get to where we are now.” And neither of us is a natural communicator, but we persevered through the difficulties.”
On May 13, 2017, they took the first step in their relationship by getting married. Taylor considered this to be a “major accomplishment” because she was well aware of Taurasi’s reluctance to share such intimate details of her life.
Taurasi, on the other hand, never imagined that having a family and being a basketball player could coexist.
“I just assumed that all of the things that I was used to doing, all of those things, were going to disappear — how much I enjoyed working out, how much I enjoyed being on the court, playing, and all of that,” Taurasi explains.
Taurasi’s big sister, Jessika Skillern, was one of the few people who recognised this way of life for her. While serving as an aunt to Skillern’s three children, Jessika noticed Taurasi’s maternal instincts. They communicated via text and FaceTime even when Taurasi was playing in Russia, which was a 10-hour time difference between them.
Skillern takes a look at her little sister’s life right now, despite the fact that it is completely unexpected, and sees her at ease.
Taurasi is the good cop to Taylor’s bad cop when they are at home. She’s a hands-on mom, much like her own mother was.
Taurasi’s mother, Lily, describes her daughter as “the sweetest person on the face of the planet.”
As a result of her late friend Kobe Bryant, Taurasi has learned to make Leo’s interests her interests, a skill she has inherited. She’s become more productive in her time spent at the gym and at home as a result of this. It’s no longer possible to binge watch four hours of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.” She does the dishes, cleans up Leo’s toys, starts the laundry, and then takes a nap, all while Taylor watches in awe at how quickly she works.
“Being born under the sign of Leo has only served to sharpen my focus and determination,” Taurasi says. and, perhaps, because I want him to see me play, and I want him to see me play at a level that is acceptable to him. ”
Taurasi’s circle has shrunk as Leo has grown in stature. Only family and close friends are left, some of whom she has known since she was eleven or twelve years old. Early in her career, she needed 50 tickets to play in Connecticut and 40 tickets to play in New York, depending on where she was playing. Now? None. She plays, she eats, and then she rests and recovers from her activities.
In his third year of life, Leo understands who his mother is and what she does, as well as how well she performs her duties. His mama was on the court by 2, and everyone sitting around him knew it. He also knew that the fans — at least the Mercury fans — were rooting for her. He was ready to take the court by 3.
“It’s almost like she has two loves,” Taylor explains.
There will be a third love in the near future. Taylor will be the mother of their second child, who will be born in October.
It has taken some of Taurasi’s long-time friends, teammates, and adversaries by surprise to see how she has changed since becoming a mother.
Since they were children, Seimone Augustus, who won three gold medals with Taurasi before retiring in May and has competed against her since they were 12, says of Taurasi, “I’ve never seen her be soft and caring.” The reason for this is that she’s always been, like, tough — tough-minded and physically tough — so I’m thinking Leo has something to do with it.
“You can kind of see her dialling it back a notch now,” says the author.
Bird isn’t surprised by any of this Taurasi 2.0 stuff.
In Bird’s opinion, becoming a mother is “sort of the icing on the cake of transformation.” It’s possible that for some people who don’t know her and only see her when she’s out on the court pushing people or spitting on the court, she doesn’t come across as a nurturing mother. For those who are familiar with her, this comes as no surprise. “She’s a wonderful mother,” says the author.
Alternatively, Taurasi describes herself as “a good-hearted a—hole.” “I believe that is the most accurate way to describe my approach to life.”
When Diana and Jessika were growing up in the Taurasi household in Chino, California, they were exposed to four different languages: English, Spanish, Italian, and the language of food.
Taurasi’s parents, Mario and Lily, may have relied on this last method of communication to stay in touch with their daughters and their friends the most frequently. In Lily’s world, refusing to consume the food that is placed in front of you is considered blasphemy. There were times when Argentine cuisine — Mario enjoys barbecuing — was served for dinner, and Diana’s or Jessika’s friends were quick to question the authenticity of the meal. They wished for something more familiar, something more American, such as chicken nuggets.
“My mother says, ‘No, no, no, eat this,’ and I agree. And they respond with, ‘No, no, it’s fine.’ “And they’re like, ‘Thank you,'” says the author. Skillern says this with a chuckle. In which case she responds with: ‘No, you’re eating it.'” Sit down, get your fork and your plate, and start eating.'”
It was four years before Diana was born that Mario and Lily relocated to California from Rosario, Argentina. They brought with them a piece of their cultures — Mario’s Italian heritage and Lily’s Argentine heritage — along with them, as well as the marriage that they had formed while living in Rosario. Because of the difficulties Diana and Jessika were having navigating the complexities of the English language, they were frequently left to figure out how to complete their homework by themselves. It wasn’t a conscious decision. Their parents were unable to assist them because they did not understand the language well enough.
The dinner table was the most important and sacred place in the Taurasi household, and it was always crowded.
It was where the family would gather at 8 p.m. on weeknights after Mario, a machinist who used to play professional soccer for Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, returned home from a 12-hour day at work after a two-hour drive in rush hour. In order to beat traffic on his 60-mile commute to Northridge, he would leave the house at 4 a.m. every day, then sit in his car until his shift began at 6 a.m, which was at the time of his departure.
When Mario returned home, if the girls were shooting hoops in the driveway, he would get out of his car and join them in the game, after which they would all go inside for dinner and talk about anything and everything. School. Friends. The current state of affairs. Basketball. Argentina and Italy are two of the most important countries in the world.
It was here that the Taurasis formed a bond. It was here that Diana first began to learn about the rest of the world. It was in this environment that she learned how to debate and argue.
After that, Skillern went on to play basketball at the University of California, Riverside. “We just got so many different perspectives on things,” he says. As immigrants from another country, my parents have a unique perspective on a wide range of issues, which has helped to keep us grounded. The things that our father would say would sometimes seem irrelevant to us because life was not like that in our home country. “Oh, Dad,” we would say at times.
“However, we gained a great deal of life experience as a result of it, and we gained a more global perspective on a variety of issues.”
It was also the place where her parents instilled their expectations in their children, who were themselves the children of immigrants, as well.
“There was no getting around it,” Skillern says of the situation. I remember my parents showing us around and telling us things like, ‘Look, we moved here to provide a better life for our children.'” We didn’t want you to grow up in the same way that we did. The last thing we wanted was for you to be without shoes and only one pair of clothes. We relocated here and made sacrifices in order to provide you with a better life.”
Skillern recalls that Mario and Diana became friends over sports, with the two of them spending hours in Diana’s room together, watching ESPN. The couple still sits on the couch together when Diana returns home, watching a basketball or soccer game on television.
Depending on how much Jessika talks to Diana, she could be talking to her up to ten times a day. If both women don’t check in with Lily at least once a day, usually via text, they’re in “big trouble.” “There would be hell to pay” if Diana didn’t check in with Jessika, even though Diana was living in Russia, half a world away, according to Jessika.
Taurasi still remembers the conversations she had with her parents at the dinner table 20 or so years ago, and they serve as a sort of North Star for her. As she and her sister grew older and began to raise their own families, Mario and Lily’s table continued to serve as the focal point for Sunday night family dinners, a tradition that Diana has continued with her own children. Regardless of whether Diana is in California on a Sunday night, she will always have a seat at her parents’ dinner table.
“I wake up every morning feeling like I owe them more, that I owe them more than I will ever be able to give them,” Taurasi says of his parents. It was because they knew there was something better for our family here than there was in Argentina at the time that they picked up and moved to a country where they didn’t speak the language and only knew two or three people. And they didn’t take the decision lightly.
“As a result, my feeling is that whatever I’ve been able to give them, I owe them a hundred times more than that.”
Despite the fact that she has reached the pinnacle of basketball achievement, Taurasi still has this feeling. In all aspects of her life, her mindset has an impact, whether she is defending her reputation against false doping allegations, attempting to communicate more effectively with her teammates, or being more honest in her relationships with her parents. Taurasi is aware that when she isn’t talking in practise, there is something bothering her and that she is being selfish as a result.
“Stop being such an a—hole,” she says as her solution.
For Taurasi, growing up with her father and witnessing him go through the same routine of working 60 hours a week for 40 years laid the groundwork for the grit, toughness, and work ethic that have been on display for the past 22 years.
“I believe that is the reason she is the way she is,” Taylor says. ‘When you have parents who are like that, they’re not just telling you to do something; they’re actually doing it. Consequently, you see it on a daily basis; in fact, she couldn’t have chosen two better examples.”
It takes Taurasi more than twice as long to complete a single day’s work as it used to. Every day, between practise, strength training, conditioning, physical therapy, stretching, and cooling down, she spends approximately eight hours at the Mercury’s training facility. She used to only be there for three hours.
Taurasi hopes that Leo will be able to see how she works, just as she was able to see how her parents worked.
“He has completely transformed the way I conduct myself on the court,” she says. “You’re now representing not only yourself, but your child as well,” she says.
“I know we talk a lot about being role models, but the only way to be a role model is to live your life as a role model every single day.” In the hopes that, every single day, I came into the gym and prepared myself and showed respect for the game, he will remember that as well. You know, I hope he takes that with him as well.”
Years before Taurasi was a role model to her son, hoping that he would follow in her footsteps, she had learned a valuable lesson of her own: You can be too big for your own good.
The game was typical Diana Taurasi: 22 points, four blocks, and a couple of assists in the Mercury’s 93-81 victory over the Seattle Storm on July 1, 2009, according to ESPN. She played a key role in the Mercury’s comeback victory that night, which sparked the team’s run to their second WNBA championship. It was the first of a six-game winning streak that propelled Phoenix from fifth place in the Western Conference standings at the end of June to second place by the end of the month of August.
It was the postgame, on the other hand, that would alter the course of her life for the better.
Taurasi went out to celebrate her win at a Phoenix nightclub, and she was arrested at 2:30 a.m. for extreme DUI after registering a 0.17 blood alcohol content, which was more than twice the legal limit of.08 in Arizona at the time.
Taurasi was embarrassed by the situation. Her parents were dissatisfied with the outcome. Her sister was taken aback.
Taurasi describes the experience as “awakening.” “It was at that point that I really just started changing the direction in which I wanted my life to go.”
When Taurasi was arrested for DUI and spent a day in jail the following October, it marked the beginning of a new chapter in her life, ushering her into, as Skillern puts it, “womanhood and adult life.”
“He’s changed the way I go about my business on the court. Now you’re representing not only yourself, but your child.”
Taurasi was 26 years old at the time, and she must have felt invincible. She was in the midst of her lone MVP season, which would culminate in her second WNBA championship in as many seasons as she had previously won.
It appeared that she was in the process of fulfilling everyone’s prophecy.
She had entered the league only five years earlier as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draught, following three consecutive national championships at the University of Connecticut. According to Bird, who is two years older than Taurasi, she was already the best player on one of the best teams in college basketball from the moment she stepped foot on the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs.
Taurasi the teen was considered such a valuable recruit for UConn that during her official visit, Bird and the upperclassmen were given specific marching orders by the university.
they said, ‘Guys, you have to look out for her and make sure she has a good time.'” ‘Take her out,'” Bird recalls thinking. The question is, what college coach is telling kids to take a kid out of school? Nobody. They were well aware that she was unique.”
In part, this was because Taurasi had come from such a strict home life in California that part of UConn’s pitch to Taurasi included showing her what life could be like on her own. It was successful.
Geno Auriemma smirks as he sits back on a couch in his office in Storrs, Connecticut.
“I never inquired as to how the party was going,” he says. “I was never interested in finding out what people were having a good time doing. “I have no recollection of what a good time we were having.”
2 Relative to
Taurasi was not a big party girl in high school, preferring instead to stay in her room and watch the Lakers on television. Lily had a rule in place. A party was something that could only be attended on weekends if Diana came with her. When Diana’s sister’s bribe was sufficient to persuade her to attend a party, Diana was usually ready to call their mother for a ride within an hour of agreeing to go.
According to Skillern, “She knew she had to wake up early for practise, so she wasn’t going to be out at a stupid school party.” “It wasn’t her thing at first, but when college came around, boy, was she in for a treat. “I believe that’s when the partying began.”
Taking part in the Russian Premier League during her first five WNBA offseasons didn’t help her cause, either.
According to Augustus, who was Taurasi’s teammate at Dynamo Moscow for two seasons, “it’s difficult not to drink in Russia.” “Everywhere you go, people are asking you if you want a shot of vodka.”
And it didn’t stop until he was arrested for DUI.
In the words of her Mercury teammate Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draught, “I didn’t get to enjoy the party phase.” “I didn’t see that one coming. I had lost my mind. I mean, I’ve heard a few things, you know? When we were younger, we were all a little bit out of our minds. We’ve gone on a couple of team outings so far. Every once in a while, it does make an appearance.”
Taurasi will enjoy a glass of wine or two with dinner every now and then, as well as a beer every now and then. However, she no longer consumes alcoholic beverages as she once did. As part of her strategy and as part of the changes she has been putting herself through to reach this point, she will compete in the Olympics in Tokyo on August 9th.
“To be honest, when I was younger, I enjoyed going out and having a good time,” Taurasi explains. and at the time, I didn’t feel any different from before.”
“However, those are things that not only I do not want to do, but that I am also physically unable to do if I want to continue to play at a high level.” So those are the considerations in your decision.”
THANKSGIVING LAST YEAR at the Skillerns’ home was anything but traditional.
It wasn’t just that there was no turkey on the menu; Jessika’s children don’t care for the taste of turkey, so it had been removed from the menu several years prior. It was the complete absence of meat on Thanksgiving Day: “Turkey Day” had gone vegan.
Additionally, it was the first time the entire family had seen Jessika’s father-in-law since he had recovered from a major heart attack just two months prior. Naturally, health was the hot topic of the day, and for Taurasi and Taylor, who have been vegan since 2015, it was an excellent opportunity to spread the word about the benefits of a herbivorous diet.
After dinner, Taylor, who had recently completed an online nutrition course, sat down with Skillern’s in-laws to discuss the benefits of adopting a healthier diet with them. She provided them with books and other reference materials on veganism, as well as starter recipes to get them started on their vegan journey.
In Skillern’s words, “Boy, they put a lot of pressure on him to change his diet and his health.” You can tell they’re coming from a good place, because they’re very vocal with our family, especially when there are health issues involved. You can tell it’s coming from the heart.”
Taurasi and Taylor’s decision to become vegans has had a ripple effect throughout Taurasi’s family as a result of their decision. Skillern adopted a pescatarian diet. The majority of Taurasi’s mother’s diet is vegan because she has battled breast cancer and lymphoma (although Mario’s grilled lobster is too good to pass up entirely). Some of my cousins began following a plant-based diet, and Christmas became yet another vegan celebration.
Taylor’s mother died of ovarian cancer in May 2013 in Australia, 19 months before her father died of lung cancer, prompting the former Mercury guard to undergo a series of genetic tests. Taylor’s father died of lung cancer in November 2013. Taylor described herself as “really scared and really kind of powerless” after the results revealed she was at high risk for both ovarian and breast cancers.
She delved into the research, looking for ways to reduce the likelihood of cancer invading her body and causing harm. Taylor came to the conclusion that following a plant-based diet was the best course of action.
In 2015, neither Taurasi nor Taylor participated in a WNBA game. UMMC Ekaterinburg, the owners of Taurasi’s Russian Premier League team, approached her and offered to compensate her for not playing in the United States. Taurasi accepted the offer. Taylor, on the other hand, took some time off after the death of her father.
On the first day of training camp in 2004, the two met for the first time. It was both of their first days with the Mercury. And both were first-round picks. Taurasi was the first overall pick in the WNBA’s amateur draught, while Taylor was the first overall pick in the WNBA’s dispersal draught the following year, after the Cleveland team folded.
“She turned vegan all right. She also turned a lot of her friends into like, ‘Shut up.'”
For a total of ten seasons, they combined to form a potent backcourt. While Taurasi received the majority of the attention and the spotlight, Taylor built an impressive professional portfolio of her own.
She won three WNBA championships with the Mercury and one WNBL championship while living in Australia. She was the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player in 2001 and 2002, and she was the 11th overall pick in the WNBA draught in 2001, when she was only 19 years old. Over the course of her 19-year professional career, which included stops in Italy, Russia, Turkey, and China, she won two Olympic silver medals, both at the hands of the Taurasi-led United States.
Taurasi and Taylor celebrated their 33rd and 34th birthdays, respectively, in 2015. Their bodies required more attention, so they began to phase out their omnivorous diets, eventually eliminating eggs from their diets entirely. Taurasi also began to get more sleep and place a greater emphasis on the importance of rest.
“We were in such good spirits,” Taylor says. “I believe it provided us with a great deal of energy. We just went from there, and we haven’t looked back since. I don’t think we will ever change our eating habits, at least not in the near future.”
Despite the protests.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Lily recalls Mario saying when Taurasi broke the news to him.
Her parents’ love language was food, and she grew up with it. It spoke for Mario and Lily on their behalf. The Taurasi home was a hive of affection, which Auriemma could sense as soon as he walked through the door. But it was Lily’s milanesas or Mario’s homemade pasta that brought the kisses to Auriemma’s forehead.
In response to Mario’s repeated requests for an explanation of what “vegan” meant, Diana informed him that she was no longer eating meat or cheese. That didn’t stop him from extending an invitation to Diana to share a piece of chicken.
“I think he’s a little heartbroken,” Skillern says of his friend. To begin with, it was a significant challenge. It’s taken him a couple of years to get used to it.”
There are no longer any memories of Mario stuffing Diana’s plate with his famous Argentine barbecue, which was only known to the Taurasi family. The five chicken legs that Diana used to eat at dinner, as her sister recalls, are no longer on Diana’s dinner plate. His grill is now split 50/50 between meat and vegetables.
“That’s a pretty drastic change for a lot of people, but stomach surgery and cancer are also drastic changes,” Taurasi says of her eating habits. “It’s something that, for me and our family, is extremely effective.”
Taurasi lost weight, dropping to 163 pounds, a weight that she claims is appropriate for her 6-foot frame, and Taylor’s knees began to feel better. Taylor also followed a vegan diet during her pregnancy, and she and her husband raise their son Leo on a vegan diet.
“To be completely honest, I would have never, ever imagined that my sister would become a vegan,” Skillern says. “This was especially true when I was growing up. “As Argentinians, we consume meat.”
However, when it comes to their family — they ride Skillern about taking her kids to In-N-Out for burgers — and close friends, such as Auriemma, Taurasi and Taylor don’t hold back when it comes to advocating for plant-based eating.
I order a chicken dish and overhear the conversation about all the chickens that are slaughtered. “‘That is disgusting,'” he says with a grin. “If I order beef, I’ll ask, ‘Do you happen to know where that came from?’ ” ‘Do you have any idea what’s going on with that?’ Please, can I just sit here and enjoy my dinner?
“So, yes, she did make the switch to veganism. She also influenced a large number of her friends to say things like, “Shut up.”
And there was that incident in which Griner was taken to a vegan restaurant in Phoenix by Taurasi and Taylor without her knowing it was a vegan establishment. They informed her that the restaurant served “chicken nuggs,” not “chicken nuggets,” which Griner correctly identified. The moment she began to eat, Taurasi and Taylor stood there looking at her, asking if they were good or not. Griner has finally come to his senses.
Then I was thinking to myself, ‘Wait, what am I eating?’ Griner says this with a chuckle. “They’re all like, ‘Oh, you’re eating tofu and soybean nuggets — vegan nuggets,'” I explain further. “I was thinking, ‘I despise you all,’ but it was really good.”
Taurasi now eats the crust off of Griner’s pizza, and going out for wings has been replaced by going out for avocado rolls (which are delicious).
Taurasi, according to Taylor, is a “very intelligent person.” “To her credit, she jumped on board as soon as she realised there was a difference in [her] energy and the way she felt. I never had to coerce her or anything like that. “She’s been fantastic.”
Although it was still early in the pandemic, Taurasi tried to keep busy with Penny and Leo at their Phoenix home as the days ticked away in March 2020. Using free weights she had purchased from Amazon and a few her parents had lying around in their Chino garage, she transformed their home office into a gym for her and her husband. She was on her new Peloton bike, which she had just purchased. She dribbled the ball into the basket in her driveway, which was outside.
Even so, she couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that was invading her space.
The world around her was coming to a grinding halt. The death toll was steadily increasing. People were being laid off from their jobs. Taurasi, like many others around the world, began to be concerned about her life and her professional prospects.
The WNBA season, which was scheduled to begin in a couple of months, was in jeopardy due to the situation. The Olympics in Tokyo, which were scheduled to take place in July, were in jeopardy.
Taurasi became ill as a result of the uncertainty. Taurasi’s thoughts began to wander as the days went by without any answers. Back surgery set off a chain reaction that resulted in her losing sensation in her right leg for the majority of the Mercury’s 2019 season. And now, with the outlook for 2020 looking bleak, her thoughts turned to the one place professional athletes — and all athletes, for that matter — try to avoid at all costs: the finish line.
The question she asked herself was, “Are you going to end your playing career by not actually playing?”
Taurasi was confronted with the possibility that her professional life would come to an end in the most anticlimactic and unceremonious of ways: by herself.
“I think when the day comes to walk away, I’m going to just be completely happy.”
She thought about all of the sacrifices she’d made and all of the significant life changes she’d made to put herself in a position to make her fifth Olympic team for the United States. And dreaded the possibility that it would all be for nothing.
Taurasi lacked an outlet, a place to get away from her doomsday preoccupations. The Mercury had closed their facilities, commercial gyms had closed their doors, caution tape had been placed around basketball courts throughout the Phoenix area, and rims had been removed from backboards in public parks and playgrounds.
She had become disoriented for the time being.
Taurasi believed she was capable of dealing with the worst-case scenario on some days when the question of whether the pandemic would end her career prematurely would recur in her mind. Yes, she could spend her entire day with Penny and Leo if she wanted to. When the pandemic was brought under control, she could finally take a Hawaiian vacation or fly to Barcelona for a seven-day trip through Spain before hopping on a train bound for Italy, or take a road trip to the Grand Canyon whenever she wanted — things she had always wanted to do but never had the opportunity to do before.
Her happiness was only for a brief moment fueled by those thoughts. Taurasi the mother received a blessing in disguise as a result of the pandemic, in some ways. She was able to spend the majority of her time with Leo, which allowed her to witness his development. Instead of hearing about the little things he was learning and saying from Taylor while she was on the road or at the gym, she was able to observe them herself.
But her inner “you suck” voice kept interrupting her, proving that even the greatest believe they have more to prove than she did. She eventually snuck into a small gym where she could shoot alone with her thoughts, attempting to keep herself and her family safe while also maintaining her mental stability. She still had more titles to contend for. And the allure of the Tokyo Games kept her on the verge of starvation.
Taurasi explains that after that she is like, “No, I’m going to play basketball.” And then, once I took a different approach to it, I was able to shift into competition mode, which is to say run-through-walls mode.”
“And then, once I got into that mode, it was game over for me.” The likelihood of me not returning to the court was nil.”
All of her hard work, all of her perseverance, all of her life changes had a newfound sense of purpose. Her professional life was not about to come to an unceremonious end in the most anticlimactic of circumstances.
The Olympics were postponed to 2021 a couple of weeks after they were originally scheduled. Taurasi was initially concerned that playing in a bubble might jeopardise her health and the health of her family, but a few months later, the WNBA announced that it would begin play in a bubble in July, a prospect that initially caused some concern.
“She was having a hard time,” Skillern says. “Was she going to go to the WNBA bubble or was she going to stay at home with her family and work out, knowing that she was in the company of people who were safe?” she wondered.
Taurasi, on the other hand, did travel to Bradenton, Florida. She was the most prolific scorer for the Mercury. As a result, she returned to Phoenix feeling re-energized and confident that her professional life was on track.
In terms of proving to myself that I can still play at a high level, she says, “the bubble was significant for me.”
Now, during the next ten days in Tokyo, she hopes to demonstrate this to the rest of the world as well.
There was a countdown on TAURASI’S iPHONE, which showed the number of seconds, minutes, hours, and days left until the Tokyo Olympics. Taking a screenshot every week and sending it to Bird, the United States flag bearer who is also aiming for a fifth gold medal, Taurasi served as a weekly reminder: “We’re still here if you need us. The countdown has not stopped.”
Upon learning that the Olympics would be moved back one year, Taurasi longs for the memory of one of her favourite Olympic memories: waiting in the tunnel with the other 600 or so athletes from Team USA before walking out for the opening ceremonies. On Friday, she marched among the members of the United States delegation, with Bird leading the way.
It’s the first game of group play for the United States, which will take place on Tuesday (12:40 a.m. ET), and the countdown has finally reached its conclusion after being nearly aborted numerous times. It has made it through back surgery and a hamstring injury in 2019, through a pandemic (even as recently as three weeks ago, Taurasi’s family wasn’t sure if she would be able to compete — or even if there would be an Olympics), it has survived a fractured sternum earlier this year, and now that ailing hip is the only thing standing between Taurasi and the “pinnacle of what we do,” as she puts it.
It is her hope that she will be ready for the season opener in Tokyo, where she has been practising with her teammates. She didn’t participate in any of the three United States exhibition games held in Las Vegas last week, and she hasn’t appeared in an official game since July 3.
Assuming the United States wins another gold medal, which would be its seventh in a row and ninth in the last 10 Olympics, Taurasi and Bird will become the first five-time gold medalists in Olympic basketball history, regardless of gender or country, if the United States wins another gold medal.
“This is definitely rarefied air,” says Carol Callan, the director of the women’s national team, who will be stepping down after the Olympics. In addition to their physical longevity, “it speaks volumes about the longevity of their spirits, as well as the longevity of their passion.”
It is possible that winning a fifth gold medal would be the pinnacle of Taurasi’s life’s work.
In the words of Auriemma, “I’m biassed because I coached her.” If you say Jordan, Magic, Bird, and all of those guys, no matter how long the list is, you’re not going to name too many of them before you get to Dee,” says the coach.
When she speaks about representing her country on the Olympic stage, there is a sense of humility, respect, and reverence in her tone of voice.
“As soon as 2016 ended, my next goal was to qualify for a fifth Olympic Games,” Taurasi explains. “On top of that, it’s taken us five years to get here.”
She used to sit with her family and watch every Olympics when she was younger. She has devoted the past 18 years of her professional career — that is, as long as she has been a member of the WNBA — to the national team. A concerted effort has been made to be available for every training camp, world championship, and college tour that has been scheduled.
She is still burdened by the responsibility of representing her country. “It’s a significant amount of responsibility,” she says.
Her career will be remembered fondly one day when she is no longer working, and she will “have a better understanding of what five means.” For the time being, however, her expectation has always been to be good enough to begin with. If she were to be selected solely for the purpose of sitting on the bench and collecting a medal, she would gladly give up her spot to a younger player.
When asked if Taurasi would be her starting point guard two years ago, national team coach Dawn Staley didn’t hesitate to say yes. After Taurasi became the first WNBA player to reach 9,000 points earlier this season, it’s likely that nothing has changed — hips permitting, of course.
Throughout the last few years, Taurasi has worked toward the Olympics with a specific goal in mind. Every change she has made has been motivated by the Olympics.
She’s on her way to the finish line now. Most likely for the last time.
“What did she tell you? If you don’t know, please tell me. I asked her and she said she didn’t know “Lily expresses herself. “When I ask her about it, she always says nothing, so I have no idea what she is talking about. Is it possible that she will qualify for the sixth medal? I really don’t know. I really don’t know.”
For Taurasi, there will be two things missing from their trip to Tokyo: Leo and Taylor. Because fans are not permitted, her family will be staying at home. There were going to be a lot of extended family members in attendance as well. Many members of the Taurasi family and several close friends believe that this will be her final Olympics, and they all wanted to be there to witness it for themselves. Some customers had even purchased packages that turned out to be non-refundable after all.
Taurasi has always considered her age to be merely a number. However, she is beginning to feel the effects of growing older. Her face was painted with the frustration she’s been feeling as a result of her recent injuries.
If these Olympics are indeed her last, and whenever she retires from the WNBA, when she walks off the court for the final time, she wants to feel the same way that Kobe Bryant did on April 13, 2016, when he walked off the court for the final time: completely and completely satisfied.
“I think that when the time comes for me to walk away, I’ll just be completely content,” Taurasi says. In my experience, I’ve seen people who have walked away and are dissatisfied, as well as people who have walked away knowing they’ve done everything and left it all on the court, never leaving an opportunity to play basketball by the wayside, and those are the people I admire.
Taurasi, according to Taylor, is “always thinking ahead,” but she is also “very practical.”
“She doesn’t have a lot of emotional fluff to her,” Taylor says of the character. “She recognises that we all have to come to a halt at some point.”
She’ll take some time off after it’s over to get away from the life she’s been living for the past thirty years. She’s not very good at juggling a lot of things at once.
Taurasi, on the other hand, will be unable to stay away from basketball. Basketball, in some shape or form, will almost certainly be a part of her future, even if coaching is not. She has stated in the past that she would like to own a WNBA team and make an investment in the game, whereas others are not interested. Taurasi 3.0 will be released in the near future.
For the time being, however, there is still basketball to be played. As of right now, the Mercury are a playoff team, and, more importantly, Taurasi is on the verge of winning her fifth gold medal.
“I feel like I’m in the best spot in the world right now,” Taurasi says. “My family, my friends, and basketball are all things that I am concerned about. Those are the only three things for which I have sufficient energy. The rest doesn’t bother me in the least. I don’t even bother to turn it on. I don’t even bother to look at it. I have no idea what is going on in this part of the world that isn’t important to me at the moment.”
All that matters today is Tokyo — and yet another shot at gold.