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Comets trio headlines WNBA All-Decade Team

NEW YORK -- As part of the league's 10th anniversary celebration, the WNBA on Tuesday announced its All-Decade Team.

And not surprisingly, the squad included a trio that helped the Houston Comets win four straight championships and dominate the league's early years.

Current Comets stars Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, as well as Cynthia Cooper, who retired in 2003, headlined the squad, which is comprised of the 10 best and most influential players from its first 10 years of play.

Joining them on the All-Decade Team are Storm teammates Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, the Fever's Tamika Catchings, the Monarchs' Yolanda Griffith, the Sparks' Lisa Leslie, the Shock's Katie Smith and Dawn Staley of the Comets.

Staley, who already has said the 2006 season will be her last, said she was surprised to be included on the list.

"I'm honored," Staley said. "It comes as a surprise to me, certainly to be in great company, especially with the great players from the Houston Comets. It's an honor to be associated with those players and just represent the WNBA in this manner, not just for the basketball, but for all the things we do in the community and what we do to try to continue women's basketball on the professional level here in the United States."

Collectively, the group boasts 17 WNBA titles and 16 Olympic gold medals. In fact, only three of the team's honorees -- Catchings, Smith and Staley -- have not won WNBA crowns.

Swoopes, the league's MVP last summer, complimented every player in the league for being part of the success.

"There's been so much talent in this league, and to be in the company with so many great players who not only made the team but even the ones that didn't make the team, it's a tremendous honor," she said. "It's definitely something I'm very humbled by and very proud of. For everyone that voted for me, I just want to say thank you."

Van Chancellor, who has coached the Comets since the league's first season in 1997, wasn't surprised to see Cooper, Swoopes, Thompson or Staley make the cut.

"I'm so proud for them, they've contributed so much for this league," he said. "They've contributed so much to women's basketball."

The group was chosen from among 30 nominees by fans, a panel of national media members and the league's current players and coaches. The All-Decade Team honors players who have contributed the most to the overall success of the WNBA by virtue of their ability, leadership, sportsmanship and community service, as well as to their contribution to team success and the growth of women's basketball.

"The All-Decade Team represents the very best in women's professional basketball in the WNBA and in the world," WNBA President Donna Orender said. "They represent all that is right with the WNBA and sports. The group consists of not only tremendous athletes who have reached extraordinary heights on the court, but of terrific women who give unselfishly of their time and effort in the community. They are multifaceted role models, believers, dreamers, achievers, coaches, teachers, leaders and champions."

The All-Decade Team will be honored at the 2006 WNBA All-Star Game, which will be played July 12 (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET) at Madison Square Garden.

L.A.'s Chamique Holdsclaw, Sacramento's Ticha Penicheiro, Phoenix's Diana Taurasi and Ruthie Bolton and Teresa Weatherspoon, both of whom retired following the 2004 season, received honorable mention accolades.

All 10 members of the All-Decade Team have earned Olympic medals (Jackson won silver with Australia; the rest won gold for USA Basketball). Seven of the honorees have played on a WNBA championship team (Swoopes, Cooper and Thompson with Houston in 1997-2000, Leslie with Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002, Bird and Jackson with Seattle in 2004 and Griffith with Sacramento in 2005), and three have won both a WNBA title and NCAA championships (Bird, Cooper and Swoopes). Jackson (2001), Bird (2002) and Thompson (1997) each are former No. 1 overall WNBA draft picks.

Leslie, Swoopes and Thompson are also three of the league's original players from the inaugural 1997 season.

Bird thanked the fans who voted for her -- as well as her teammate.

"I'm so honored to be named to this team," she said. "When you look at the list of nominees, the amount of talent is incredible, and that includes Lauren, who has helped make me the player I am today."