The announcement came just prior to game one of the 2021 WNBA Finals. Fans voted Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi the league’s greatest of all time (GOAT). Taurasi, who welcomed her second child with wife and former teammate Penny Taylor just hours after the Mercury defeated the Las Vegas Aces for a spot in the Finals, joined the league as the top draft pick in 2004. Over the past 17 years, she has dealt with injuries, but somehow always rises to the occasion when the heat is on.

It is almost inconceivable that some of the players on current WNBA rosters weren’t even in first grade when Taurasi was drafted, but it’s wonderful that they show respect and admiration for amazing talents such as Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson. Earlier this season, the WNBA named The W25, the greatest players in league history. No current New York Liberty players made the list, but among those named who have worn the Liberty uniform are Tina Charles, Swin Cash, Becky Hammon, Katie Smith (also an assistant and head coach) and Cappie Pondexter.

As we honor these women who have helped shape the WNBA, it is also time to acknowledge some of the challenging aspects of the league’s history. Thankfully, many of the negatives have been spectacularly righted in recent years, but they shouldn’t be forgotten.

It took more than 15 years into the league’s existence for the WNBA to embrace the LGBTQ+ community both in terms of encouraging players to be their authentic selves if they so chose and in acknowledging and celebrating its LGBTQ fan base. In 2016, when players took a stand on Black Lives Matter, they initially encountered extreme pushback but were undaunted. This serves as a historical marker of how committed these players have always been to utilizing their platform for bigger purposes.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert made it clear that the league honors and fully supports the social justice activism of the players. “Our Social Justice Council, which came out of the events of last year, has continued their work very fervently this year, I may add, on three pillars,” said Engelbert. “One is health inequities, particularly in communities of color, one is LGBTQ+ advocacy, and the third and where we’ve spent a lot of time is voting rights and civic engagement.

“The social justice work of the WNBA is player-led, league facilitated and amplified,” she added. “These players command other social justice leaders in society to actually come talk to them about their strong voices and what change they want to see.”