Diana Taurasi’s decision to sit out should spark WNBA salary changes
Diana Taurasi might need some rest.
The Phoenix Mercury star has played year-round since 2004, when she was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft. She spends winters playing overseas and summers helping the Mercury chase WNBA titles. In addition, there were three gold-medal runs with Team USA in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
But when Taurasi announced Tuesday that she has decided to sit out the 2015 WNBA season at the request of her Russian Premier League team, it wasn’t just about rest; it was also about money. Sure, Taurasi has been going full speed for more than a decade, but she wouldn’t sit out this upcoming season if the move didn’t make financial sense.
That’s where the club Taurasi plays for overseas, UMMC Ekaterinburg, comes into play. The team has offered Taurasi a deal: more than her WNBA salary to not play at all this summer.
For the 2014 WNBA season, the 33-year-old made just under the league maximum of $107,000. But she makes 15 times that — approximately $1.5 million — playing overseas. Now she’ll make even more, as UMMC is essentially compensating Taurasi her WNBA salary and then some, to not play in the WNBA at all.Taurasi says she has every intention of returning for the 2016 WNBA season and also intends to play in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. But this summer, for the first time in her career, the California native will actually have an offseason.
It was the perfect mix of timing and making sure I was in control of my career. Since 2004, when I started professional basketball, it has been a cycle — a cycle that I have enjoyed so much. With my team in Russia, a conversation began about making sure I’m at an elite level for a long time with them. I put everything on the table and weighed all my options and made the best decision. I’m really lucky to even have these options. It speaks volumes on how UMMC values our relationship, and vice versa. For 10 years, I have never had any significant time off.
The Mercury have won three WNBA titles with Taurasi since 2007.
“There are few competitors as fierce or committed as Diana,” Mercury GM Jim Pitman said in a release on the team’s website. “This decision is not a representation of her dedication to our team; she intends to return to the Mercury in 2016 and honor the contract extension she signed with us last year. Though obviously disappointed, we respect her decision.”
The news creates short-term questions for the defending WNBA champion Phoenix, which must now find a way to replace Taurasi’s leadership — and her 16.2 points and 5.6 assists per game.