Mercury Rising

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

For Taurasi, it might be less about maintaining secrecy and more about maintaining sanity.

She has so many obligations with the Mercury and the press and so little time to herself that when she has a rare day off, she often makes herself "unreachable," hiding out alone at her Phoenix home (not far from the arena), doing laundry and watching TV. She has no desire to become a tabloid topic.

"I don't think she's as full of herself as other people are full of her," says Patti Blackwell, who's met Taurasi several times and brings her son to all of Taurasi's basketball camps. "She is who she is, and she doesn't try to be something different. She's just been put on this pedestal, and she's doing her best to stay balanced on it, but it's got to be really, really difficult."

Diana Taurasi
Tony Blei
Diana Taurasi
Taurasi landed on three Sports Illustrated covers before turning pro.
Taurasi landed on three Sports Illustrated covers before turning pro.

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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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When Taurasi came to the Mercury as a rookie, she was greeted with tremendous fanfare, and her name still elicits more screams from the audience at U.S. Airways Center than any other Mercury player. And although Taurasi interacts with fans and the media, she visibly squirms when the word "celebrity" comes up.

"You know, I really don't pay attention to it much," she says. "I just go about my business and just chill out."

To that end, any free time Taurasi has (which is very little during these heady playoff days) is spent chilling out. When she's not hiding out at home, she says, "I like to go to the movies. I like to go to the mall and hang out."

Taurasi's tastes aren't that different from many other 25-year-olds. She digs hip-hop, particularly Tupac Shakur, Nas, Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls. She also likes U2, James Blunt, and Coldplay. She likes her music loud. Her favorite movie is A Bronx Tale. When she watches TV, she tries to catch The Jamie Foxx Show, Nip/Tuck, and reruns of Married . . . With Children. She's frequently vocalized her love of Fruity Pebbles cereal and sushi.

Then there's "the bun." Taurasi's on-court hairdo has become her trademark, and fans and reporters often ask her when she's going to let the bun down and bust out the old pony tail. It's become such a topic of conversation that Taurasi's taken to telling people, "Don't think outside the bun."

She says with a laugh, "Oh, the ponytail! Man, the bun is rollin' this year. I don't know if I can go back on that."

Taurasi doesn't go so far as to say that messing with the bun would be bad luck, but after a season in which she was named WNBA Player of the Week twice, the Mercury ended the season with a five-game winning streak and it swept its first-round playoff opponent, you've got to wonder if there's some mojo in that thing.


Diana Lurena Taurasi was born in Chino, California, on June 11, 1982. Her father, Mario Taurasi, was born in Italy and played soccer professionally in Argentina. That's where he met and fell in love with Taurasi's mother, Lili, when they were both 15. The couple moved to California in 1978 and started a family, beginning with a daughter, Jessika. Eighteen months later, Diana came along. She grew up speaking Spanish, still the language of choice in the Taurasi household.

The girl who would grow up to be a celebrity in women's basketball had a humble upbringing. Her father worked more than 50 hours a week as a machinist in Fullerton, while her mother waited tables at a Sizzler. Her parents' work ethic affected Taurasi profoundly, and she considers her "'rents" among her heroes. One of her goals is to buy a house in California to be closer to her family.

Growing up, Taurasi says, sports were a "huge" part of the household. "Soccer was probably the biggest thing. We're die-hard soccer fans," she says. "Whenever the World Cup comes around, it's like our family dies for a whole month — you don't hear from anyone. So it's always been special. We always grew up watching tennis on the weekends. We always watched as a family."

Basketball came up when Taurasi was 8, and took over from there. "I got onto a community team in second grade, with my sister, and we just started playing from then on," she says. "It kind of just grew into something that I had to do every single day when I got home from school. I had to watch every night. I had to wake up and go to school early and play in the yard. It's just something I love to do. I was addicted to it at an early age, and I still am."

Taurasi's talent was apparent even then. "I've seen her [hit big shots] since she was in the eighth grade," Charli Turner Thorne says. "I saw her at a tournament in high school in Santa Barbara, and three games in a row, she hit a buzzer-beater to win the game. And her high school team [Don Lugo High School] wasn't a good program. It was pretty much just her, and she just has a knack and a flair and a toughness for stepping up and making big plays, and that mentality of, 'I'm not gonna be denied!'"

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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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