More often than not, life doesn’t provide a storybook ending. That was the case for Penny Taylor and the Phoenix Mercury Oct. 2, as the Minnesota Lynx swept the Mercury out of the WNBA Semifinals with an 82-67 win in Phoenix and brought down the curtain on the career of one of the Mercury’s greatest players.
The Mercury had used Taylor’s impending retirement as a rallying cry during the postseason, fighting to allow their teammate to play another day. However, as a one-point halftime deficit ballooned in the third quarter of Game 3, it appeared Taylor was the only one on the court for the Mercury who recognized the urgency of the moment. Despite languishing through a poor shooting night herself, the 35-year-old played with the fire of someone who did not want to see her career end, diving on the floor for loose balls and swooping in (as much as the athletically limited Taylor could swoop) for rebound opportunities.
That type of effort was emblematic of the kind of gritty, mentally tough, and fundamentally sound player she had always been. The game, however, never came back to the Mercury, and as the reality that the season was over sank in for those in attendance, chants of “Pe-nny” echoed through the stadium.
“Today was hard physically,” Taylor told azcentral.com after the game. “In a way it reinforces there is an expiring date for everyone. Some days you feel good. Today wasn’t one of them. No matter what, I like to think we come out and we fight and that I’ve done that my entire career. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
Taylor finished her 13-year WNBA career as one of the best women to ever play after leaving an indelible mark on the Mercury franchise.
Drafted 11th overall in 2001 by the now-defunct Cleveland Rockers, Taylor was selected by the Mercury in the WNBA dispersal draft with the first overall pick back in January 2004. Over the next 10 seasons (she missed 2008, 2012, and 2015 due to injury), she teamed with Diana Taurasi to lead the Mercury to levels of success unknown previously, winning WNBA titles in 2007, 2009, and 2014.
Taylor, who was a 3-time All Star and 2-time All-WNBA performer, ended her career third in franchise history in points and games and second in steals, assists, and 3-pointers made. She ranks 18th in WNBA history for both career assists (1,053) and steals (480) and 21st in career points (4,606). As for the playoffs, she finishes her career ranked 8th in assists (181), 8th in steals (68), 13th in points (670), and 16th in rebounds (243).
Away from the WNBA, Taylor was successful as well, winning two Olympic silver medals with the Australian Opals and leading Australia to a gold medal in the 2006 FIBA World Championship, where she was named the MVP of the tournament.