At 38 years old, Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi has no intention of slowing down. In her 16th WNBA season, Taurasi played 19 games this summer in the bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, averaging a team-high 18.7 points and also 4.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds.
One year after injuries limited her to six games and 4.3 PPG in the 2019 season, Taurasi looked less like she was approaching retirement and more like the player regarded as a WNBA legend. Retirement is not on her radar.
We caught up with Taurasi recently to talk about career longevity, playing in the bubble and just what happened when she saw a particular official in the lobby.
ESPN: How would you describe the experience playing in the "Wubble"?
Diana Taurasi: Definitely a unique experience on a lot of levels. If anything, being one of the older players there, I was probably as well-equipped as you can be as far as being in a bubble setting: playing in a scenario where you see the people you're playing against every single day. You play in the same place, you really don't leave your hotel room. My years overseas really set me up pretty good. There was still a learning curve. There was a time there where it got a little heavy -- the days kept going by and there weren't that many outlets.
But once the games got serious, I think it was a pretty great atmosphere as far as the quality of basketball. Physically, I felt great playing. There were a lot of positives. We got to play a season. We did it in a safe manner, where I think everyone felt comfortable. I think the league did a great job, and IMG did, too.
ESPN: You said that there was a time where the season got a little heavy. What did you mean by that?
Taurasi: We were playing the season for a cause that was bigger than basketball: the Black Lives Matter movement, getting the vote out. We wanted to make sure people knew why we were playing. And it was more than just playing basketball. Obviously that's what we love to do and we work so hard to be on the court, but there were so many social issues that were more important than that.
When you involve your time and your energy, those things weigh on you. There was a moment where we took a pause, and we regathered our thoughts about why we were there in the bubble. It was nice we did it as a league and as a unified front. It's not something that's easy to do; to get everyone on the same page and get them going in the right direction. It's never easy, but we found a way to do it. Being a part of the WNBA for so many years, this was one of our proudest years for sure.
ESPN: How would you describe your involvement in the activism undertaken by WNBA players?
Taurasi: Whatever I could do to support my community, the Black community, the brown community. I think it was a culmination of all these thoughts, all these feelings and all these ideas, and this was the time to really back it up. I was 100% in it; I still am. Whatever I can do to help the people leading the cause and leading the charge. They're the ones that should get all the credit. They've been doing it for years. These organizations don't just pop up. You don't get the credit just for backing it. They should get the credit because they've put in the hard work. If the WNBA was a way that message got heard by more people, was seen by more people, that's how I want to be a part of it.
"I say this to a lot of my good friends: 'The minute you see that I suck, tell me and I'm out.' Instead of lying to me, someone let me know!" Diana Taurasi, on when it's time for her to retire
ESPN: How did you cope without having the direct support of your family alongside you?
Taurasi: It was the first time I spent that much time away from (son) Leo since he was born. (Wife) Penny (Taylor) and I are used to the long-distance thing. Him not being there to watch the games -- there was a sense of having to figure that out again. It was tough. Looking back on it, the living conditions, I maybe would have thought twice about making sure they came to Florida. Especially with the pandemic, and not really being sure how that was going to be treated, I think we made the right choice. It was tough, but I spoke with them every single day on FaceTime. They got to watch the games. But it was tough.
In a game against the Minnesota Lynx on Aug. 22, Taurasi was called for a foul. She disagreed with the call, and after jawing with the officials, was given a technical foul. She again voiced her displeasure, courtside microphones picking up Taurasi telling the referee "I'll see you in the lobby later." Social media blew up over the comment.
ESPN: What do you think about your "I'll see you in the lobby" comment going viral and becoming a meme for women's basketball fans?
Taurasi: (Laughs.) You know what was so funny about that was we would literally see them in the lobby every day. I've known most of those guys for so long. It was meant more as a joke than anything, but in the heat of the battle, I said it a little more threatening. I meant it like, "I'll see you in the lobby and we'll review the play on your laptop," because that's what they do pretty consistently. It was more of a joke. Whatever.
ESPN: So what happened when you did see him in the lobby?
Taurasi: I literally told him that. And he said he took it a little serious. Whatever. Money (from the fine) goes to a good cause, I guess.
ESPN: When you look at the next generation of players, what excites you about the future?
Taurasi: These kids are getting so good so early. I didn't do an individual workout until I was 25. These kids are working on skills that took me forever to even explore. That, to me, is exciting, especially on the women's side. The more creative, and the more you explore the game, that's only going to be better for everyone. There's a seriousness about it that I'm really enjoying from these young kids. They're working, they're in shape, they want to compete, they want to go overseas. Those are the things that, for me, when I look at the new generation, I love to see that. That's the only way the game is going to get better. We get better.
ESPN: How is your body feeling these days?
Taurasi: I feel really good. After the season, I took about 2½ weeks off from training, mentally and physically, just kind of unplugged from everything. After that, I got back to my strength conditioning and rehab. Obviously, the things I can control are the most important. I've been hard-core plant-based (diet) for five years now. The hydration part is also important. Those are the things I'm focused on: Making sure I'm eating right, and that I'm hydrated after workouts.
ESPN: What are your strategies for maintaining your fitness and competitive levels?
Taurasi: As I've gotten older, the physical part is the most important. Being on the court and physical playing at a high level, that's most important. At this point, a couple of reps and you feel pretty good on the court in terms of shooting, ballhandling and decision-making. As I know very well, physically you have to be ready to be on the court, and that just doesn't happen overnight. That's cumulative from nutrition, hydration and fitness. Those are a lot of the things I've been learning, since I haven't been going overseas and getting those actual game reps.
ESPN: When you entered the league in 2004, did you expect to have such a long career?
Taurasi: I really didn't know what to expect. I just knew I wanted to play basketball for as long as I could. There are times where I'm like, "Is it time to move on?" And not only basketball, but as far as just your life and career and what's next, but I feel like this is what's next for me. There's just this chapter at the end that I want to maximize. I'm going to do everything I can to play at a high level. I say this to a lot of my good friends: "The minute you see that I suck, tell me and I'm out." Instead of lying to me, someone let me know!
ESPN: Is that your bar for when you'll know it's time to retire?
Taurasi: Pretty much. It's as simple as that.
ESPN: Every year, it seems like there's more buzz about how your career is nearing its end. What are your thoughts on that?
Taurasi: It's funny, there's all these slogans like "you're never too old to keep dreaming." You know it's funny how in the basketball world, and in the business world where you're just supposed to stop. In the sports world, I feel like at 35 you're just supposed to stop. If you do, that's great.
I'm not stopping; I don't feel like I should stop right now. Who knows? In six months, it could be a different story. But right now, people ask me what I want to do after basketball ... I'm doing basketball right now. I'm doing everything I can to be on the court. Not to be in the front office, not to coach. My sole objective is to be on the court and to be badass. It's just simple.