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Diana Taurasi breaks WNBA all-time scoring record; Kobe, LeBron offer praise

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About the only thing missing from Diana Taurasi’s record-setting day was a victory.

Taurasi became the WNBA’s career scoring leader in front of her family, friends and Kobe Bryant.

With her parents watching, Taurasi passed Tina Thompson on Sunday in the Phoenix Mercury’s 90-59 loss to the Sparks in Los Angeles.

“It’s pretty special I got to do it in front of my family on Father’s Day in LA,” said Taurasi, a four-time Olympic gold medalist who finished with 19 points.

Taurasi came into the needing 14 points to break the mark set by Thompson, a 2004 and 2008 Olympic teammate, and the Mercury guard did it late in the first half on a layup with her team down big.

“Once I got the basket it was pretty cool,” she said. “I was trying not to think about, wanted it to happen and do it organically. It did. You think about all the great players you played with, all the games.”

Taurasi stands alone atop the league’s scoring list. She has 7,494 points and has averaged 19.9 points in her career.

She said in the weeks leading up to the historic points that she wasn’t thinking about the record.

After the basket, the game stopped and Taurasi was given a warm ovation from the crowd that included Bryant and his daughters as well as Taurasi’s.

“We had this planned on the schedule for quite some time,” Bryant said during an interview in-game. “It worked in our favor we could see a historical night.”

Bryant has always been impressed with how hard Taurasi works.

“To be that great for so many years is a testament to her work ethic and commitment to the game,” Bryant told ESPN. “Her intellect and sacrifice. She’s just a phenomenal athlete.”

Thompson offered her congratulations.

“I am excited that it is Diana and it is my absolute pleasure to pass the torch on to her,” Thompson said. “She and I have shared so many amazing moments throughout our basketball careers, whether it was gold medals, championships or All-Star games. Diana is one of the best players to ever play the game and definitely one of my favorites. She has done amazing things and I am so grateful that I’ve been able to share many of those with her. I am really excited for Diana and I think she is going to blow that record out of the water.”

Taurasi, averaging 18.1 points this year, passed Tamika Catchings for second on the WNBA scoring list early this season. It only took the Mercury star 13 seasons to become the league’s top scorer. Thompson needed 17 years to achieve her total.

Earlier in the season, Taurasi set the career 3-pointer record, passing Katie Smith. Taurasi has 927 3-pointers.

She turned 35 this month and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. She recently signed an extension through 2020 and said she hoped to play at a fifth Olympics with one caveat.

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WNBA All-Time Scoring List
1. Diana Taurasi — 7,494
2. Tina Thompson — 7,488
3. Tamika Catchings — 7,380
4. Katie Smith — 6,452
5. Cappie Pondexter — 6,449

Most decorated Olympic basketball player sells gold medal

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Teresa Edwards, the most decorated Olympic basketball player in history with five medals (four gold), is selling one of those medals.

Edwards’ collection with auction house Lelands includes not only her first Olympic gold medal from 1984, but also game-worn Olympic jerseys and her Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame jacket and ring. The same auction block includes 1904 Olympic golf gold and silver medals.

Edwards’ Olympic gold medal auction had a starting bid of $15,000 and is up to $29,231 with 17 days left.

Much of Edwards’ memorabilia from her 16-year international career, including all of her Olympic medals, have been displayed at the University of Georgia, her alma mater, for 10 to 20 years.

Edwards is selling her first Olympic gold medal to “test the market” for such a piece of women’s sports memorabilia before deciding whether to sell the other medals.

She said a six-figure sum for the 1984 medal would be successful. In 2014, former NBA All-Star Vin Baker‘s gold medal from the 2000 Sydney Games sold for $67,000.

Edwards said her longtime U.S. teammate, Sheryl Swoopes, sold one of her Olympic gold medals (Swoopes’ 1996 gold is listed here as going for $13,000 in 2013).

“To die and leave them [the medals] afloat would be horrible,” said Edwards, who played on five straight Olympic teams from 1984 through 2000 and was Chef de Mission for the U.S. Olympic team in 2012. “To live and have an opportunity to donate them to certain places, that’s good, too.”

For Edwards, a motivation is gender equality.

“I don’t think women truly get a real opportunity to be part of the wealth that men are experiencing with articles of this nature,” she said. “I would love, first and foremost, to see women have a market to have the same options and opportunity to be a part of that auction world, to be a part of the greatness that goes with the Babe Ruth products and the Muhammad Ali products and the [Michael] Jordans. I just feel like women have a market. We have the Jackie Joyners [Kersee], we have the Billie Jeans [King], we have the [Martina] Navratilovas.”

A pair of Jordan’s shoes from the 1984 Olympics was auctioned Sunday morning for $190,000.

“If someone bought my medal for that kind of money, I think it would just open up a whole new window, an opportunity for women in sports and their history,” Edwards said. “Our stories haven’t been told yet.”

In 1984, Edwards made the Olympic team as its youngest player following her sophomore year at Georgia. Under coach Pat Summitt, the U.S. earned its first Olympic women’s basketball title in the event’s third time on the Olympic program.

Summitt, while a 24-year-old coach at Tennessee, was the oldest member of the first U.S. Olympic women’s team in 1976, which lost to the Soviet Union in the final.

What would the late Summitt, who didn’t win an Olympic gold medal herself, think of Edwards’ decision to sell one of hers?

“Deeply, I would think she would think the same thing I’m thinking,” Edwards said. “It’s my journey.”

The 1904 Olympic golf gold and silver medals being sold were won by American Chandler Egan in the team and individual events, respectively. The 1904 St. Louis Games marked the last time golf was played at the Olympics until Rio 2016.

It was reported last year that Egan’s medals were found in a bookcase in the former home of Egan’s daughter in Northeast Ohio.

The medals were displayed at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., and the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J., before Egan’s grandchildren chose to sell it this year.

Egan’s grandson Morris Everett Jr. said the original plan was to have his heirs sell it years down the road. But the timing of golf’s return to the Games, plus seeing another 1904 Olympic golf gold medal sell for $272,000, proved too large a lure.

Everett said he and his brother and sister turned down an offer for $325,000 for both of Egan’s medals and chose in April to auction them on Lelands.

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Sue Bird keeps Team USA door open, too

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Some days, Sue Bird feels as if she’s on borrowed time. Other days, the WNBA’s oldest player considers a potential fifth Olympics in Tokyo.

“Only three years away,” she said Sunday.

Bird, like her former University of Connecticut teammate Diana Taurasi, sounds more optimistic now about playing for Team USA again than she did last year. They could both be on the 2018 World Cup team.

Taurasi said last week that she would keep playing for the national team as long as she’s asked, with one likely caveat. Bird would have to suit up, too.

“It’s easy to group us in a lot of ways,” Bird said before scoring a season-high 21 points in a Seattle Storm loss at the New York Liberty on Sunday. “I’m sure the decision will be kind of, sort of together, but at the same time, separate.

“In terms of health and where you are in two, three years, it’s tough to say. I can also tell you that, I think I can speak for both of us when I say, if we’re both playing at a high level and feel good and we’re asked to represent our country, it would be really hard to say no.”

Bird turns 40 in 2020, when she will be nearly three years older than any previous U.S. Olympic basketball player. She said before Rio that 2016 would likely be her last Olympics.

Bird, who missed one game in Rio with a left knee sprain, underwent left knee surgery for a fifth time in April. But she’s averaging a career-high 8.1 assists per game this season, leading the WNBA through seven games.

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, who replaced Geno Auriemma (Bird and Taurasi’s college coach), said in March that it was her gut feeling that both Bird and Taurasi would make a run for Tokyo. Staley, Bird and Taurasi were teammates at the 2004 Athens Games.

Bird said she hasn’t had any discussions with Staley and no meaningful ones with women’s national team director Carol Callan the spring.

But Bird and Taurasi may well be needed. The U.S. team of 12 in Rio included just three primary guards — Taurasi, Bird and Lindsay Whalen, all 34 years and older.

“If it comes down to it and the team needs me in whatever capacity I’d oblige,” Bird said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t think if you’re asked to represent your country you say no to them.”

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