Phoenix Mercury

 

One of eight inaugural franchises, the Mercury debuted on June 22, 1997, in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 16,102. Whether it was the nuns in attendance, the standing-room-only crowd, or the women’s basketball legend dancing on press row and grabbing the microphone to address fans after every game, win or lose—it was clear something unique was afoot from the very beginning. A pioneer of the game and one greatest female basketball players of all-time, the charismatic and enthusiastic Cheryl Miller was the franchise’s original coach and general manager. Under her leadership, and with legendary players Jennifer Gillom, Michele Timms and Bridget Pettis, the team made three playoff appearances in its first four seasons, including one trip to the Finals.

The Mercury organization has become a destination for some of the game’s most successful players, coaches and executives. In addition to Hall of Famers such as Miller and Nancy Lieberman-Cline, and legends like Gillom, Timms and Pettis, a renaissance of style began in the WNBA with the Mercury’s 2006 hiring of NBA Championship coach and fastbreak guru Paul Westhead as coach, and Hall of Famer and Olympian Ann Meyers Drysdale in 2007 as general manager.

Meyers Drysdale and Westhead assembled a team around Diana Taurasi, one of the most decorated collegiate, international and Olympic athletes in the game’s history. The first overall pick and league Rookie of the Year in 2004, Taurasi’s skill set in Westhead’s system helped the Mercury shatter virtually every offensive record in the league, and catapulted the Mercury to the 2007 WNBA title, the first in franchise history and the first won on the road in WNBA history. Just two years later, a thrilling five-game series win clinched the team’s second WNBA title in 2009. A study in diligence and determination, like its best player, the Mercury fought its way back to the pinnacle of the league in 2014, winning the team’s third WNBA championship.

A leader off-the-court, in 2009 the Mercury secured the first corporate-branded jersey in WNBA or NBA history in a partnership with Tempe-based Lifelock.

Then, after a rare down year in 2012, the Mercury secured the top overall pick in the most anticipated draft in WNBA history and selected the transcendent Brittney Griner, a 6-foot-8 center who set a league record dunks in her professional debut, set league records for blocks in a single-game and single-season as a sophomore and helped lead Phoenix to that 2014 title.

Here’s a closer look at the legends who have played for the Phoenix Mercury over the years:

Jennifer Gillom (1997-2002)

Gillom’s enduring impact on the Mercury franchise began early. She averaged over 15 points and five rebounds in 1997 en route to being named to the All-WNBA Team. In 1998, she averaged 20.8 points and 7.3 rebounds and led the Mercury to the Finals, losing to the Houston Comets (one of the greatest WNBA teams of all-time). During her six-year tenure with the Mercury, the Hall of Famer averaged 15.3 points, was named to the inaugural WNBA All-Star game in 1999 and propelled the team to three playoff berths (1997, 1998, 2000).

Michele Timms (1969-1974)

“Timmsy” hung up her sneakers after 17 years of professional basketball, the last five coming as a member of the Mercury. The Aussie sensation made her mark on the WNBA and women’s basketball with her gutsy play, all-out hustle and electric personality. She guided the Mercury to the 1997 Western Conference Title and 1998 WNBA Finals. She was named a WNBA All-Star during the 1999 season and received the Community Relations Hometown Hero Award for her work off the court in July 2001. Over her five-year WNBA career, Timms averaged 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. When she retired, she was the Mercury leader in career assists (551), assists per game (4.8), assists in a single season (158), career steals (188) and seals in a single season (71).

Bridget Pettis (1997-2001, 2006)

As a player, Pettis’ energy was infectious. A member of the inaugural Mercury club in 1997, Pettis retired with a decorated career, making her mark in team history as the first player to score a point for the Mercury in its first game in June 1997. In 2006, she was honored for her contributions to the organization along with former teammates Michele Timms, Jennifer Gillom and former coach Cheryl Miller with a banner that hangs permanently in US Airways Center.

Diana Taurasi (2004-present)

One of the most decorated collegiate, international and Olympic athletes in the game’s history. The first overall pick and league Rookie of the Year in 2004, Taurasi’s skill set helped the Mercury shatter virtually every offensive record in the league, and catapulted the Mercury to the 2007 WNBA title, the first in franchise history and the first won on the road in WNBA history. Just two years later, a thrilling five-game series win clinched the team’s second WNBA title in 2009. A study in diligence and determination, like its best player, the Mercury fought its way back to the pinnacle of the league in 2014, winning the team’s third WNBA championship.

Penny Taylor (2004-present)

In January 2004, the WNBA held a dispersal draft, where the league’s existing teams selected former players from the Rockers team. Taylor was selected as the first overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury. In July 2007 she was chosen as a reserve for the WNBA All Star game. On 16 September 2007, Penny Taylor along with Diana Taurasi led the Phoenix Mercury to the WNBA championship defeating the Detroit Shock in the final game 5 of the finals, 108 – 92. Battling and returning from multiple injuries throughout her career, Taylor is one of the most beloved Mercury players of all-time. Most recently, Taylor returned as a Mercury starter, and led the team to the best record in the WNBA and their third WNBA Championship.

Brittney Griner (2013-present)

A 6-foot-8 center who set a league record dunks in her professional debut, set league records for blocks in a single-game and single-season as a sophomore and helped lead Phoenix to the 2014 WNBA Championship.