Taurasi's decision to skip season isn't a WNBA death sentence

  • Diana Taurasi, center, will skip the upcoming WNBA season to play solely in Russia.

    Diana Taurasi, center, will skip the upcoming WNBA season to play solely in Russia. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/7/2015 4:00 PM

This was bound to happen sooner or later, and frankly, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner.

Diana Taurasi, the best female basketball player in the world, announced this week that she isn't going to play in the WNBA this summer. Fresh off a WNBA title with the Phoenix Mercury, which swept the Chicago Sky in the Finals last September, she's taking a pass.

 

She's the first WNBA player to do so for financial reasons.

Her "off-season" team in Russia is paying her to take the summer off. (Must be nice, right?) UMMC Ekaterinburg, the team that pays Taurasi a vast majority of her yearly income, wants its superstar to rest, rejuvenate and work on her game for the next winter season.

Taurasi makes about $1.5 million per season with her Russian team. And she's going to make even more to rest this summer than she would to play with the Mercury. She's at right around the WNBA's maximum salary of $107,000.

On the surface, Taurasi's decision seems like a no-brainer. It makes financial sense. It makes sense in terms of self-preservation.

And I can see many other marquee players in the WNBA someday doing the same thing. When I talked to Sky center Sylvia Fowles, who also makes substantially more money overseas, about this subject at the start of last season, she said that every player who is good enough to have options has thought about this one.

Fowles, who was coming off of off-season hip surgery, said that playing year-round, which is what most WNBA players do because the salaries in Europe are so much better than those in the WNBA, takes a significant toll.

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Physically, and mentally.

When push comes to shove for aging WNBA stars, their overseas careers might get the push, and the WNBA might get the shove.

Doomsayers are predicting, well, doom for the WNBA, a mass exodus of its stars. Especially now that Taurasi has officially opened this can of worms.

But here's what the WNBA has going for it: Loyalty. History. Location.

• I sense that most players feel a significant amount of loyalty to the WNBA, a league that has given women more and better opportunities on a professional level than any other in American history.

• Many players also seem to have an appreciation for the history that they are creating. With every season that passes for the WNBA, now in its 17th year, everyone in the league can say she has played a meaningful part in the growth and preservation of an entity that is still in its infancy, and is unlike any other on the sports landscape in this country.

• Finally, while the bigger paychecks in Europe are nice, some things are priceless, such as lifestyle and friends and family. WNBA players, most of whom are Americans, love the WNBA because their friends and family here don't need to cross an ocean to visit them, or watch them play.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Taurasi's decision will certainly impact the WNBA, and fans should be prepared to do without other superstars in the future, perhaps as soon as this coming season. There is really no viable scenario in which the WNBA can lessen the financial discrepancies between here and Europe.

This will continue to be an issue. But I don't think it will spell the downfall of the entire league. It has survived tougher challenges.

Anyway, Taurasi has already said she'll be back for the 2016 season. She and other stars might go away, but I have a feeling they'll always come back.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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