WNBA's unsung heroes make an impact
Maya Moore might be the newest, most popular addition to the Minnesota Lynx -- and the WNBA, for that matter -- but it is veteran forward Rebekkah Brunson who is setting the tone.
Brunson, who played the first five years of her WNBA career in Sacramento, has four double-doubles in four games and has been the Lynx's leading scorer and rebounder this season, helping Minnesota to a 3-1 record. One of those wins was an impressive road win at Seattle, where the Storm hadn't lost since the end of the 2009 season. Brunson had 22 points and 14 rebounds in that game.
And the veteran is driving the train on a roster that includes Moore, Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins.
Brunson is one of a group of WNBA players who might not be considered among the league's biggest stars but have made a huge impact. In honor of Brunson's early-season success, here's a list of the five most under-the-radar players in league history -- players whose contributions always seemed to be bigger than their star power.
5. Shannon Johnson (1999 to 2009): Johnson, always known as "Pee Wee," played for six WNBA teams in her decade-long professional career. She ranks third in WNBA history behind Ticha Penicheiro and Sue Bird in total assists.
4. Taj McWilliams-Franklin (1999 to present): McWilliams, who has played on seven WNBA teams in her distinguished career, is a six-time All-Star. Currently on the Lynx roster, McWilliams still is playing significant minutes. In 11 of her 13 previous seasons, she started every game she played, and she has averaged double-figure scoring 11 times in her career. She ranks 12th in the league in points and second in rebounds.
3. Betty Lennox (2000 to present): Lennox, the WNBA Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in 2000, is back on a WNBA roster after missing much of 2010 with a knee injury. She led the Storm to a title in 2004 (and was the Finals MVP) and averaged 17.5 points a game for the Atlanta Dream in their inaugural season in 2008. She has more than 3,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds.
2. DeLisha Milton-Jones (1999 to present): Jones is no wallflower. With two WNBA titles under her belt, Jones has had a long career and was a member of two Olympic teams. But she's also played much of her career in the shadow of Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson and, for that reason, her contributions can be underrated. She ranks 11th in points in league history and is the WNBA's No. 11 rebounder of all time, as well.
1. Tangela Smith (1998 to present): Smith has played for four different teams in her 14-year career, and her longevity says it all. Smith ranks in the top 10 in WNBA history in six career categories: points, rebounds, blocks, field goals made, field goals attempted and minutes. She has averaged double-figures in 10 seasons (including this one, for Indiana). She is the league's fifth-leading scorer all time with more than 4,700 career points, and she ranks sixth in rebounds.