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Saturday, Diana Taurasi married her former teammate, Penny Taylor — and then the two of them hopped over to Talking Stick Resort Arena for the Phoenix Mercury’s home opener. Phoenix lost by ten, but that’s not going to stop Taurasi from breaking the WNBA’s all-time scoring record this year, just like she passed Sheryl Swoopes and became the second leading scorer in U.S. Women’s National Team history last year. She won three National Championships at UConn, four Olympic gold medals, three WNBA championships, and now she’s gay married!
Taurasi told the Arizona Republic: “[It was] just an amazing day, one of the happiest days we’ve ever had. It would have been nice to follow it up with a win, but we’re just really happy. It was one of the times where all our families were together, all the people we love and care for in the city that we met and evolved as teammates and wives now. It’s been pretty cool.”
I grew up playing basketball, from kindergarten to college, and I almost cannot believe how many college and professional coaches and players have come out in recent years. The WNBA has grown leaps and bounds since it began in 1996. It tried A League Of Their Own-levels of hard to paint itself as a fine upstanding group of beautiful, feminine, straight young women playing ball for crowds of straight couples and their straight kids. Sheryl Swoopes blew up the world when she came out in 2005. A couple of years ago, the WNBA decided it was going to go after the fan base that’d been there all along — gay women, and since then players have lived out without feeling like they have to come out. But it’s always heartening when they do.
Former WNBA player Candice Wiggins actually pushed back on the WNBA’s embrace of gay players and fans last year. She said “98 percent” of players are gay and “were deliberately trying to hurt [her] all of the time” because, unlike them, Wiggins was “proud to be a woman.” It was a tense moment for the league, but almost shockingly, nearly every major sports network, website, magazine, commentator, player, coach, and fan came down against Wiggins’ claims.
“I’ve never witnessed the kind of bullying Wiggins describes in her interview,” 11-year WNBA veteran Monique Currie wrote at the time. “This does not mean it did not happen, but I’m proud to be a part of a league that supports inclusion and celebrates all players, regardless of their race, religion, or sexuality. We are a family made up of players that love and respect the game of basketball.”
Women’s basketball legend Jennifer Azzi came out last year, and even though that step made her the only openly gay woman coaching in the NCAA, she received huge support from the community. “I’m super proud of Jennifer as a leader and a coach,” University of San Francisco Athletic Director Scott Sidwell told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Our university is a place of inclusive excellence. We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of support.”
Diana Taurasi is one of — if not the — greatest women’s basketball players of all time. Countless little girls around the country wear her jersey and cheer her on. She’s their hero. And now, like Seimone Augustus and Angel McCoughtry and Elena Delle Donne and Sharnee Zoll-Norman and Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree and DeWanna Bonner and more, Taurasi is out and proud and happy.
“That was our special thing,” Taurasi said yesterday. “We never kept it secret, we just didn’t want that to be an issue ever.”
Her choice to come out means that it will keep becoming less and less of an issue for all the little girls who take the court after her.