Mercury Rising

The best baller in Phoenix doesn't play for the Suns. Can Diana Taurasi take the Mercury all the way?

As each kid passes the ball, Taurasi yells stuff like, "Cheer your teammates on, you guys! You gotta cheer 'em on!"

Teamwork and team spirit are not trite ideas to Taurasi; it's important to be a good teammate and rally the troops. "I think that's one thing I've always prided myself on, being a good teammate on and off the court," she says. "I think that really brings chemistry to the team and, eventually, that's when you become a really great team."

As someone who's faced Taurasi, the Shock's Katie Smith considers Taurasi's teamwork skills to be one of her best attributes. "On the floor, if she can shoot the ball 20 times, she'll shoot the ball 20 times. If she can shoot the ball 12 times and is really getting her teammates involved, or if Cappie's going off or Penny's going off, then she'll [help] them," Smith says. "She's not someone who necessarily needs to get hers every night."

Taurasi talks to the media after the Mercury’s final game of the regular season.
Tony Blei
Taurasi talks to the media after the Mercury’s final game of the regular season.
Fans rush onto the court for the "Mercury Train."
Tony Blei
Fans rush onto the court for the "Mercury Train."

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The Phoenix Mercury plays the San Antonio Silver Stars in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday, September 1. Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster and at the U.S. Airways Center box office.
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Paul Westhead says Taurasi's "the heart of the team and pulls them together," and Mercury forward Taylor — who came to the team as the number-one pick in the WNBA Dispersal Draft (when the Cleveland Rockers folded) the same year Taurasi joined as the top pick in the WNBA draft — says Taurasi's "definitely the leader of our team.

"She's a fantastic teammate. For all the hype and attention she's had, she's very grounded," says Taylor, who many fans believe has a shot at league Most Valuable Player this year.

"She's the energy of our team. She's probably the least selfish person I've ever played with, in the sense that she wants everyone to play well."

None of this is to say Taurasi doesn't like attention. If she catches a camera on her, she can ham it up. During the basketball camp, she saw a huge lens up in the stands out of the corner of her eye, and she started playing with the ball, expertly spinning it from fingertip to fingertip and rolling it up and down her arms like a Harlem Globetrotter.

But while she can be the showoff, Taurasi's mostly guarded with the media. When she answers reporters' questions, she looks them in the eye, speaks quickly, and ends statements with a tone of finality.

And she would prefer to keep her personal life personal.

Many WNBA fans, particularly the league's large lesbian audience, want to know about Dee's life off-court, mainly: Is she gay or straight? Many people assume most players in the WNBA are gay, but only a handful of them have publicly come out: Houston Comets forward Sheryl Swoopes, Comets guard/center Latasha Byears, former Minnesota Lynx center Michelle Von Gorp, and former New York Liberty center Sue Wicks.

Taurasi's said she's supportive of gay athletes who come out of the closet on their own terms, but she won't speculate on players' sexuality and doesn't think the media should be trying to out people.

Wicks, the first player in the WNBA to come out and openly discuss the issue with the press, told the Village Voice in an August 2000 story, "I can't say how many players are gay, but it would be easier to count the straight ones."

Swoopes, the player to most recently come out, in October 2005, also debunks the myth. "The talk about the WNBA being full of lesbians is not true," she wrote in an April, 2006, guest editorial in ESPN The Magazine. "I mean, there are as many straight women in the league as there are gay."

As for Taurasi, well, according to her MySpace profile (which she maintains herself), she's "straight," "single," and would like children "someday."

She certainly looks like the jock's jock during games, but Taurasi's surprisingly feminine off-court. When she's out on the town, at an awards ceremony, or doing studio television interviews, she'll let her abundant hair down and try all sorts of things with it, from just letting it hang straight behind her ears to the super-curly tresses she wore to the White House to accept George W. Bush's congratulations for the Huskies' winning the 2003 NCAA title. She wears makeup (usually shades of soft pink and earthy tones), dazzling diamond earrings, and form-fitting clothes and dresses that reveal her athletic curves. For the 2004 ESPY Awards, Taurasi got a makeover from tennis star Serena Williams, during which the pair spent more than three hours trying on various outfits and talking hair and shoes. Taurasi's outfit choices came down to a low-cut black number and a pink pantsuit with a black, lacy bra (she went with the latter).

Taurasi will make casual comments to fans about her relationship status (in a 2005 online chat on the Phoenix Mercury Web site, she told one fan, "I do NOT have a boyfriend, but I am looking for someone rich, [who] is about 6-8 and drives a BMW 745 Li."), but she isn't as forthcoming about such things with reporters. Several Web sites have stated that Taurasi's currently dating local TV star/producer Ari Louis, host of The Ari Louisshow on Access Tucson, but Taurasi hasn't commented on that and neither will the Mercury's public relations department. (Louis could not be reached for comment).

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2 comments
CourtKilla
CourtKilla

Did you see the game last night against San Antonio? Way to sweep the playoffs, Mercury! The finals are going to be outstanding, but I doubt it will be Phoenix vs. Detroit. Look for the Indiana Fever to shut down the Shock today.

Fred
Fred

the sonics already hired a coach. i doubt westhead would rumored for a coaching position that's already been filled. p.j. carlesimo took the job earlier in the summer.

 
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