|12 April 2010|
| ||Jeff Taylor has been covering European basketball since 1997, when he first worked on the television program SLAM. He has been a basketball writer and broadcaster since that time, traveling the continent and covering the game in depth for FIBA Europe since its launch in 2003. |
Something that has been uttered on more than one occasion this season and certainly many times over the weekend in Valencia, Spain, where Spartak Moscow Region won the EuroLeague Women Final Four, is that Diana Taurasi is the greatest player in the game.
Some say she is the greatest player of all time.
|Diana Taurasi on the way to two of her 29 points in the Final against Ros Casares|
It's definitely accurate to call Taurasi, who had 37 points in the Semi-Final win over UMMC Ekaterinburg and 29 in the final victory over Ros Casares, unstoppable.
She is, in one word, legend.
Taurasi is a player that collects championships, gold medals and MVP awards as if they were entitlements.
A two-time Olympic winner with Team USA, an NCAA champion with the University of Connecticut and in the WNBA, a four-time winner of the EuroLeague Women with Spartak Moscow Region - Taurasi had no equals in Valencia and right now, there is no better player in the game.
In Sunday's 87-80 victory over Ros Casares at La Fonteta in Valencia, a result that clinched the 2010 European crown for Spartak, Taurasi hit three-pointers and drove into the lane for acrobatic lay-ups (watch highlight video).
She was named EuroLeague Women Final Four MVP for the second year in a row.
None of it came easy.
"It was the most difficult and physical game I've ever played in," Taurasi said.
"Each shot, each pass, each rebound were difficult because it was contested by them everywhere.
"I can't feel my body right now.
"But I guess if you do, you didn't play hard enough. Everyone on both teams really gave their all. It's special to watch."
As good as Taurasi was on Sunday, the game became even more of a spectacle because of her teammates.
Ilona Korstin of Russia came off the bench and contributed 16 vital points, and Team USA's Sue Bird played again like one of the best floor generals in the game.
It was Janel McCarville who really impressed for Spartak, though.
|Janel Mc Carville showed that she can do more than dive for lose balls and hand out good passes with her MVP-worthy double-double|
Not named in the USA Basketball women's national team squad for 2010-12, McCarville showed she's one of the best players in the world with a 20-point, 13-rebound effort for Spartak.
She very easily could have been named MVP.
Twenty points and 13 rebounds?
"Not too bad," McCarville said with a big smile. "I might have to Tweet about this. Everyone knows what Diana Taurasi can do, Sylvia Fowles and Sue Bird, Ilona Korstin - we have so many weapons on this team (watch postgame reactions video).
"I try to be as unselfish as possible to get them open shots.
"When people d (defend) them up as they did today, leave me open, you can only guard so much on the court and I was open most of the time."
"They were prepared and made the difference in the game," Taurasi said.
Spartak, in a season when their inspirational owner, Shabtai von Kalmanovic, was shot and killed in the streets of Moscow back on November 2, won the title.
"I think this was the sweetest by far," Taurasi said.
"We've had a lot of ups and downs. A lot of things have happened to us personally, and it hasn't been easy on the court, either.
"We've had some progression month by month and it has been fun to watch."
"Spartak have proved why they have won the last four EuroLeagues," Ros coach Isma Canto said.
"In order to beat this team, you have to be 100%.
"We made small mistakes that allowed them to remain in front.
"We tried in the second half, but it wasn't enough."
Now the countdown is on for next year.
Can Spartak win the title for a fifth consecutive year?
Will Taurasi return to the Moscow Region?
The Spartak budget following the death of Shabtai isn't what it once was, and the rumor mill is already in motion.
It is understood that Taurasi took a pay cut to play for Spartak this season.
According to the Spanish press, Fenerbahce are going to make her an offer that's too good to turn down.
Should she move to Istanbul, Taurasi would team up with Australia's Penny Taylor - the MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women and a teammate with the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA.
It's too early for Taurasi to commit.
She's going to return to the United States and see USA coach Geno Auriemma, and will play in the WNBA before taking aim at the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic.
Know this, when Taurasi does make her decision, everyone is going to sit up and take notice.