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WNBA unveils top 25 moments in history based on search trends

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Every day this week, the WNBA has unveiled one of five categories for the top 25 moments in the league’s 25-year history. The rankings represent the most-searched WNBA trends on Google since the league was founded in 1997. The categories include cultural influence, championships, WNBA icons, rookies of the WNBA and WNBA history.

On Friday, the league also released a roundtable with some of the WNBA’s biggest stars, breaking down the iconic moments and identifying what their hopes are for the future of the sport. Below are the final results of the top-25 rankings:

WNBA History

There is plenty to celebrate in the WNBA, the longest active professional women’s sports league in the United States. The “WNBA History” category features fans’ favorite moments over the past 25 years, driven by search trends.

Earning a spot on the list is the Wubble season and WNBA Virtual Draft in 2020, where the New York Liberty selected Sabrina Ionescu No. 1 and the Dallas Wings reloaded with three picks in the top 10. Next up is one of the most iconic moments in league history, when Lisa Leslie threw down the first-ever dunk on July 30, 2002. Leslie also played a key role in another featured moment, when her Los Angeles Sparks tipped off against the New York Liberty on June 21, 1997 for the first game in WNBA history.

Before that inaugural game, Tina Thompson became the first college player drafted into the league in 1997. Also featured is Diana Taurasi becoming the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer in 2017. The Phoenix Mercury guard continues to add to her total, finishing her 17th season with 9,174 career points.

Cultural Influence

The WNBA isn’t just a basketball league; it has also made an impact on other sports, music, fashion and culture.

Maya Moore recreated the iconic Jordan billboard in 2018, giving young athletes everywhere a new poster to hang up on their walls. Following Moore is the WNBA’s iconic orange hoodie, which has been worn by high-profile athletes and celebrities from Drake to Kobe Bryant.

Earlier this year, Candace Parker became the first woman to grace the cover of NBA 2K, just another accolade in a banner year for the Chicago Sky forward. The first WNBA All-Star game at Madison Square Garden, before which Whitney Houston sang the national anthem, also earns a spot. Rounding out the list is Becky Hammon becoming the first female full-time assistant coach in NBA history. Hammon will undoubtedly be leading search trends again, as she is reportedly returning to the WNBA to coach the Las Vegas Aces on a record deal.

WNBA Icons

The WNBA has gifted fans with legendary performances from stars past and present.

Candace Parker returns to the list for delivering the second and third dunks in WNBA history during her 2008 rookie season. Next up is “The Shot,” one of the league’s first viral moments: Teresa Weatherspoon hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to lift the New York Liberty to a win in Game 2 of the 1997 WNBA Finals.

More recently, Liz Cambage set the WNBA’s single-game scoring record when she dropped 53 points in the Dallas Wings’ win over the Liberty on July 17, 2018. The next season, Elena Delle Donne became the first WNBA player in league history to join the 50-40-90 club, meaning she shot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3 and 90 percent from the free-throw line. Courtney Vandersloot’s single-game record 18 assists in 2020 rounds out the category.

Rookies of the WNBA

From draft nights to on-court achievements, many WNBA rookies have shined from the moment they entered the league.

The list would be incomplete without the 2013 WNBA Draft, when perhaps the greatest top-three draft picks in league history — Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith — were made. Next up is the 2019 draft, when Notre Dame’s entire starting five were selected within the top 20 (Jackie Young, No. 1; Arike Ogunbowale, No. 5; Brianna Turner, No. 11; Jessica Shepard, No. 16; Marina Mabrey, No. 19). Notre Dame’s five draft picks surpassed only UConn’s in the 2002 draft, when four Huskies starters went in the first round.

Brittney Griner earns another spot for her impressive WNBA debut. The Mercury center became the third player to dunk in a game when she threw down two slams in her first game on May 27, 2013. Coming in next is Candace Parker’s landmark rookie season, when she was named WNBA Rookie of the Year and MVP. That same year, she won the AP Female Athlete of the Year award, following it up this week with her second such honor after leading the Chicago Sky to their first WNBA championship.

Championships

Through Google Search, the WNBA identified the title-winning moments that have captivated fans and driven the most conversation over the past 25 years.

The Seattle Storm won their fourth championship in the Wubble in 2020 behind Finals MVP Breanna Stewart, closing out a challenging year on a high note. From there, Diana Taurasi graces the list once again for her game-winning shot in Game 3 of the 2014 WNBA Finals coming out of a huddle with coach Sandy Brondello. Next up is Nneka Ogwumike’s game-winning shot that lifted the Los Angeles Sparks to their third title in 2016. Grabbing an offensive rebound against the Minnesota Lynx in Game 5, Ogwumike balanced the ball in her right palm as she fell backwards and sunk the shot with 3.1 seconds left to give the Sparks a 77-76 victory.

Tamika Catchings earns a spot for leading the Indiana Fever to the franchise’s only WNBA championship in 2012. Two years after the Fever lost in the Finals, Catchings scored a game-high 25 points in Game 4 to claim the title over the Minnesota Lynx and earn the Finals MVP award. That same Lynx team is highlighted for winning their fourth championship in 2017 and completing a dynasty that included four titles in seven years.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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