In the hallowed halls of the professional sports world, every superstar and fan favorite has an origin story, the beginning chapter of a career-spanning journey in the limelight.
To celebrate the stars of today, WNBA Origins is shining a spotlight back on the rookie campaigns of 12 individual players who've remained near and dear to their franchises ever since.
These unique rookie Moments, minted to just 50, make up an unforgettable Legendary set made even more exclusive by the formal rookie minting rules published during the 2023 WNBA campaign.
Put simply, these Moments acquire via team leaderboards, will be the only rookie Moments of these 12 players to ever exist.
May 20, 2004 - Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
If you didn’t know Diana Taurasi was GOAT-material before she set foot in the league, you learned pretty quickly. Playing in the first game of an iconic career on May 20, 2004, the Phoenix Mercury rookie corrals an inbound pass in the closing seconds of her first WNBA half, then drains a 60-foot buzzer-beating heave to send her team into the intermission. Taurasi finished with 22 points on the night and would go on to win Rookie of the Year on the season. Over the subsequent two decades, Taurasi would go on to win three WNBA championships, earn an MVP, become the highest-scoring player in league history by a wide margin and even win a formal fan vote as the consensus greatest player of all time. VIEW MOMENT.
June 4, 2011 - Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago Sky
All-time caliber floor generals see and play the game differently - they impact their franchises differently, too. Making her WNBA debut on June 4, 2011, Courtney Vandersloot navigates the floor in transition, then sets up teammate Epiphanny Prince with the first assist of a decorated career. Vandersloot played 11 seasons with the Chicago Sky, receiving All-Rookie honors in 2011, earning four All-Star nods and helping the organization claim its first WNBA championship in 2021. VIEW MOMENT.
September 13, 2012 - Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Legends don’t wait long to show you what they’re capable of. Drafted into the spotlight as a first-overall pick on the Los Angeles Sparks, Nneka Ogwumike hit the ground running. Left unchecked for a fraction of a second on September 13, 2012, Ogwumike slips backdoor and leaps to convert an alley-oop for two of 30 points in a late-season win over the Chicago Sky. Ogwumike would go on to win Rookie of the Year in the 2012, MVP in 2016, and played an instrumental role in the team’s 2016 title. VIEW MOMENT.
July 23, 2014 - Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun
Alyssa Thomas does it all and she’s done it all since Year 1. Sizing up an interception on the defensive end, the Connecticut Sun forward races into a passing lane, picks off a steal then races the length of the floor for an easy two. Thomas finished with nine points, five boards and three steals in the July 23, 2014 contest, would proceed to earn All-Rookie honors on the season, and has since made four All-Star appearances. VIEW MOMENT.
June 28, 2015 - Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm
Frenetic and impossible to contain, Jewell Loyd’s ability to get to the cup has been on display since her rookie season. Racing along the perimeter with the ball in her hands, Loyd dishes off to a teammate before back-cutting hard to the hoop and finishing with a bucket. The season-high 21 points in the June 28, 2015 battle were a sign of things to come for the Seattle Storm guard, who would go on to be named Rookie of the Year, a multi-time All-Star, two-time WNBA champion and, in 2023, the league record-setter for most total points in a single season. VIEW MOMENT.
September 3, 2015 - Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics
With an elite ability to see the floor since the day she arrived in the league, Natasha Cloud has become a fan favorite playmaker for a reason. Baiting the defense into the corner on a drive in her rookie season, Cloud leaps out of a double team and skips an assist out to the perimeter for a wide-open triple. Cloud finished the September 3, 2015 contest with 11 dimes and would become a mainstay in the Washington Mystics’ lineup. VIEW MOMENT.
May 27, 2018 - A'ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
The combination of size, footwork and skill that A’ja Wilson brings to the table have been a problem for opposing defenses since the minute she set foot on the court. In her third game as a pro with the Las Vegas Aces, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft lulls her defender into the paint with a dribble, then spins in the opposite direction for a seamless fallaway layup. Wilson racked up 27 points and eight boards in the May 27, 2018 matchup, went on to win Rookie of the Year honors on the season, and has won a pair of titles and MVPs in the short time since. VIEW MOMENT.
August 7, 2018 - Kelsey Mitchell, Indiana Fever
Draw the short straw of having to guard Kelsey Mitchell in the backcourt and prepare for an exhausting night. After running her defender through a screen at the top of the arc, the Indiana Fever guard stops on a dime and blows past in the opposite direction thanks to a tight handle that’s since become a trademark of the 2023 All-Star. Mitchell put up 14 points and four assists in the August 7, 2018 contest and she’d finish the season on the WNBA’s All-Rookie team. VIEW MOMENT.
August 26, 2018 - Monique Billings, Atlanta Dream
Stepping up to the first game of the postseason absent a leading scorer like Angel McCoughtry is daunting enough for anyone, let alone a rookie. Unphased by the extra pressure and workload in Game 1 of the 2018 playoffs, Atlanta Dream forward Monique Billings battles into the paint and converts a floater through contact. Billings finished with nine points and five boards in her August 26, 2018 playoff debut. VIEW MOMENT.
May 25, 2019 - Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx
Napheesa Collier has been ready to lead the Minnesota Lynx since the day she joined her teammates. Sizing up the defense in her WNBA debut on May 25, 2019, Collier frees herself space with a dribble jab step then pulls up for a triple in a dominant first showing. Collier’s 27 points rank as the second-highest first-game point total in league history and she’d go on to win Rookie of the Year honors and earn an All-Star nod in her very first season. VIEW MOMENT.
July 29, 2020 - Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty
Though her rookie campaign was cut short after just three games in 2020, that was all the time it took for Sabrina Ionescu to give an early glimpse of what she’s capable of. In just her second WNBA contest, the highly acclaimed first-overall pick buried six triples en route to a 33-point outing, adding a well-rounded seven boards and seven assists in the July 29, 2020 contest. In the short time since, Ionescu has made two All-Star appearances for the New York Liberty. VIEW MOMENT.
August 25, 2020 - Satou Sabally, Dallas Wings
The ability to dominate the game has been evident since Day 1 for Satou Sabally and while she’s grown more consistent over the years, the initial flashes were hard to miss. In the waning seconds of an August 25, 2020 battle, Sabally cuts into the corner to haul in an inbound pass then leaps into a fallaway three along the baseline. Sabally finished the game with 28 points, 11 boards and three blocks, earned herself a nod on the All-Rookie team later that season and would go on to become a multi-time All-Star for the franchise. VIEW MOMENT.