Sam Naser

Spirit of generosity

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Photo: Barry Gossage/Getty Images

On the court, they call her DT. Off the court, she’s simply Dee. Some consider her the greatest collegiate basketball player of all time. The world knows her as Diana Taurasi, and ever since her draft to the Phoenix Mercury in 2004, the former University of Connecticut star’s athletic achievements have continued to grab headlines.

The stats

Diana Taurasi was the No. 1 pick in the 2004 WNBA draft when she joined the Phoenix Mercury. In her rookie season, she averaged 17.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, earning her the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) Rookie of the Year award. Then, in 2007, she led the Mercury to their best record in franchise history at 23-11, clinching the championship title in a hard-fought series against the Detroit Shock.

Two years later, she was bestowed with the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) title, as she led her team to their second championship. The same season, she went on to capture the WNBA Finals MVP title, making her the second athlete to win the season scoring title, season MVP, finals MVP and a WNBA championship.

Cover girl

Image detail from photo shoot for ESPN Magazine. Photo: Sheryl Nields

DT’s is an undeniably stellar career; we’ve barely scratched the surface here. But recently, her physique may have gained her as many admirers as her athleticism. This past October, Diana bared all (well, almost all) on the cover of ESPN Magazine’s second annual Body Issue, which features athletes in the nude, “an exploration and celebration of the athletic form,” as the magazine puts it.

The day of the photo shoot, Diana was having second thoughts. After some quick coaching from ESPN’s photo editor Nancy Weisman and photographer Sheryl Nields, Diana let go of her fears and decided to go for it with a “Let’s rock!” – her inevitable attitude when face to face with a challenge. The published images reveal Diana in tasteful poses showing off her athletic build.

Diana’s clothes-free cover hit newsstands alongside five other cover subjects: PGA Tour golfer Camilo Villegas, New York Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire, World Cup goalie Tim Howard, the USA Water Polo Women’s National team, and Dutch wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer.

No rest for DT

With the Mercury’s current season over, Taurasi has reported to Turkey, where she plays for Fenerbahçe Istanbul in the International Basketball Federation’s (commonly known as FIBA) EuroLeague Women. Her Facebook fans (she’s got more than 15,500 of them) post comments in Turkish, regardless of whether or not she understands the language, welcoming her to the team and encouraging her to rest when she has the occasional rough game.

And rest does not come easy for Diana Taurasi. She claims she never has to take a day off, and if she’s not playing the game, she’s in the gym or playing soccer. This work-hard attitude comes from her father. Diana says, “Every single day of his life, my father wakes up and goes to work … His respect for work and his persistence have really influenced the way I approach what I do. He works hard because that’s who he is.”

As famous as she is for her basketball prowess, Diana Taurasi – Dee, is also known for her kindness, on and off the court. The Phoenix Mercury’s GM Annie Meyers, says about her: “Diana Taurasi has changed the game of basketball. When her playing days are done, no player will ever compare to who and how Diana Taurasi has played the game. Her shooting, her all around game, her will to win her clutch shots, teamwork, and leadership. She makes everyone around her better and gives her team the credit.”

Diana has thousands of adoring fans for good reason. She’s happy to sign autographs, especially for the kids, and even for fans of the opposing team.

Her spirit of generosity makes it easy to like her, even if it’s DT, not Dee, driving in for a lay-up.

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