WNBA Star Diana Taurasi a Superstar On, Off the Court
In her storied career in the Valley, Diana Taurasi has won three WNBA championships (2007, 2009, 2014), one WNBA Most Valuable Player Award (2009), two WNBA Finals MVP Awards (2009, 2014), four Olympic gold medals, (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016), five scoring titles (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011), the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award (2004) and three FIBA World Cups (2010, 2014, 2018).
She is considered one of the greatest female basketball players of all time—nicknamed by Kobe Bryant as “the white mamba”—and the WNBA’s all-time scoring leader.
But, for all of the work she has done on the court, the work she has done off of it is just as special.
Since being drafted number one overall by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2004 WNBA Draft, Diana has invested many hours when not on the court volunteering and fundraising across Arizona.
She is a past winner of the WNBA’s Community Assist Award, which is given to WNBA players who go the extra mile to make “assists” for those in need. Tireless in her volunteerism, she has worked with One Community, Save the Family and many others, especially helping women and children. Just last year, she partnered with a group of local nonprofits to host more than 50 single mothers and their families, who were given grocery store gift cards, flowers and breakfast and spent the morning with Diana and her teammates.
One organization for which she is especially involved is called KaBOOM!.
KaBOOM! is dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America. Since its inception in 1996, the organization has built or improved over 17,000 play spaces and served more than 10 million children.
Diana not only volunteers and fundraises for KaBOOM!; she has a portal on her own website where fans can buy autographed merchandise of hers, with 100% of proceeds benefiting the organization. Beyond that, she hosted her own fundraising events and donated her own funds to help build a KaBOOM! playground in Connecticut in the name of University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Alumni, of which she is one.
Another Valley organization that supports KaBOOM! is the Fiesta Bowl, also a nonprofit that is most known for hosting one of the nation’s top college football postseason matchups every year at State Farm Stadium.
The Fiesta Bowl has built seven playgrounds across the state of Arizona with KaBOOM!, with another on the way this month in Fort Mohave.
So it’s appropriate that Diana and the Fiesta Bowl came together last month when Diana was named as one of five Arizona female icons who will serve as Grand Marshals for the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Parade, presented by Cheez-It on Sat., Dec. 28. She will be joined by Amy Bockerstette, Julie Ertz, Jessica McDonald and Allysa Seely.
“I’ve been on a lot of teams but that’s a pretty strong starting five right there,” Diana says. “It’s a time for women in sports to be recognized and carry this torch into the future. I think what the Fiesta Bowl is doing this year says a lot about what they mean to the community, what they mean to the country as far as forward thinking and going in the right direction.”
Amy is the first Special Olympics athlete to receive a full college athletic scholarship and currently plays golf for Paradise Valley Community College. You may also remember her from the Waste Management Phoenix Open in January when she parred the famous 16th hole, alongside defending champion Gary Woodland.
A native of Mesa, Julie was recently named to the 2019 FIFA FIFPRO Women’s World 11 and earned 2017 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year. She won two World Cup titles and has been on the National Team since 2013. The Dobson High School graduate and her husband, Zach, a tight end for 2018 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, co-founded the Ertz Family Foundation to create opportunities for children in sports and education.
Soccer star Jessica made her first World Cup appearance this year at 31 years old, and was the only mother on the Team USA at the 2019 World Cup.
Allysa won an ESPY Award this summer for Best Female Athlete with a Disability. After graduating from Mountain Ridge High School, she competed for the club triathlon team at Arizona State University before she was diagnosed with brain, spine and connective tissue conditions in 2010. She was told she might never walk unaided again and then overcame it all and won gold at the 2016 Paralympic Games and became a three-time ITU Paratriathalon World Champion.
With the Parade theme of Women in Sports honoring Diane and her fellow trailblazers’ contributions in their fields, the connection between Diana and the Fiesta Bowl is something special given their like-minded dedication to charitable works, both big and small.
Like Diana, the Fiesta Bowl understands that teachers and mentors—though often the ones providing support to others—need to be supported right back. In 2016, the Fiesta Bowl Charities launched Wishes for Teachers, powered by DriveTime. The program grants classroom wishes to teachers across the state of Arizona.
As a way to support, celebrate and honor Arizona educators, teachers are invited to fill out an online application detailing their school and classroom wish. Wishes are selected by a random drawing to receive a $5,000 grant. All wish recipients are invited to walk in the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Parade and be recognized on-field at the Cheez-It® Bowl. In its first three years, Wishes for Teachers granted over $2.2 million to Arizona teachers, impacting over 100,000 children across the state. Another $1 million was granted a few weeks ago to 200 statewide teachers.
In 2018, six $5,000 grants were given in Chandler, to teachers at John M. Andersen Elementary, Jordan Center For Early Education, Bologna Elementary, San Marcos Elementary School, Kyrene del Pueblo Middle School and San Tan Junior High. When taking the entire Southeast Valley into account, 40 total grants were given in the area last year, totaling $200,000.
Through its two annual bowl games in the Valley, the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl and the Cheez-It® Bowl, as well as community events throughout the year, Fiesta Bowl Charities has given more than $15.5 million across the state of Arizona in the last nine years, including $3 million in 2019 alone.
On Sat., Dec. 28 at 9 a.m., Diana invites the entire state of Arizona to join her at the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Parade. Beyond Diana and her fellow female trailblazers, the event will feature various brilliantly colored floats, giant balloons, equestrian units, charitable groups, local celebrities and marching bands that will make their way down the two-mile route through Central Phoenix. Admission is free to the public with premium and reserved seating available for $30. The event is broadcast live on Arizona’s Family 3TV.
Every year, a combination of more than 2,500 men, women, children, floats, balloons and animals are part of the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Parade.