Why the Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi might be closer to retiring than you think

PHOENIX -- Diana Taurasi has a lot of things to do.
Almost, perhaps. Maybe. But not quite yet.

This summer, the Phoenix Mercury's 39 year-old star guard achieved a very important goal when she won her fifth Tokyo Olympics gold medal. This pursuit has been her passion for many years.

What's Taurasi's motivation now that the WNBA is no longer her main focus? Another WNBA title.

Penny Taylor, Taurasi's former teammate and wife, said to ESPN that Taurasi has lived 17 years in WNBA with one motivation: winning championships. Taylor stated that the titles they shared in 2007 and 2009 are not enough for Taurasi.

Taylor stated that Taylor doesn't care much about anything else than [championships]. "World championships and the Olympics. WNBA. She played wherever she was in Europe. That's it. She's not MVP, she's not winning any records, scoring titles or anything.

"It has always been about championships."

Taurasi will be continuing that quest for a fourth title Sunday (3:00 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App), against the Chicago Sky. This is Taurasi's first appearance in the championship series in 2021 WNBA Finals. What's next for the Mercury if Taurasi can win her fourth ring?

Maybe the end. At least one source close to Taurasi suggested that she may be ready to leave the game.

According to Jess Skillern (sister), Taurasi had a list of goals over the past few years. The Olympic gold medal was the first.

The second was... well, everything else.

The next tier of goals featured a WNBA championship. However, few people saw the fifth-seeded Mercury make it to the Finals. Other factors also played a role. Skillern cited Taurasi's growing family and his age. Taylor gave birth on Saturday to their second child (their older brother Leo is three) just hours after Taurasi had scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to help Phoenix win its fifth trip to WNBA Finals.

Taurasi stated that she does not believe age should be a deterrent. Privately, Taurasi has been facing her basketball mortality since 2019, Skillern stated.

Skillern stated in July that she doesn't want her 50-year-old self to not be able walk straight up. Skillern stated in July that she is not leaving the court with a broken body and that she will continue to play at her best. These two things will not happen. She is aware that there are only a few summers left and she is 'taking it day by day' for her career.

Nothing drives Diana Taurasi like winning championships. She joked that she would see her in France, where she won a record fifth Olympic gold medal, when she had just won the 2024 Summer Games. But like Sue Bird, might Taurasi be mulling retirement? David Becker/NBAE via Getty Images

Taurasi still has one year on her WNBA contract. Skillern stated that Taurasi's health will be more important than ever in deciding whether or not she plays the last year of her contract.

Skillern stated that although she knows she will be retiring in the near future she is still healthy and able to handle it. She also said that as long as she continues to give good performances and plays at her full potential she will still be there. Skillern said, "But when her body tells her it's the right time, she will make the smart choice."

Taurasi was limited in her regular season games to 16 because of a hip injury, a fracturedsternum and an earlier hip injury. She is currently dealing with a sprained foot and ankle injury that she sustained two weeks before the playoffs began.

Geno Auriemma of UConn, who was a Taurasi coach in college and on Team USA's national team, said that he wouldn’t be surprised if Taurasi’s injuries had forced her to retire some years ago. Auriemma had the opportunity to coach Taurasi and Sue Bird for eight years on the national team. He was also a part of the rehabilitation process, which was exhausting both before and after the season.

He said that it was a full-time job before the Olympics. It wears you out and there are too many days where people wake up saying, "I don't want this anymore." "I still want to play, but I don’t want to do it anymore."

This postseason, Taurasi was a living dichotomy.

She's been bruised and battered throughout the season, sometimes even to the point where she can be seen grimacing and limping during games. But, she scored a playoff-career high 37 points in Game 2 -- becoming the oldest ever to score a regular-season or postseason 30-point game in league history.

Taurasi continues to show that she can do it at this stage, despite all her injuries. That's what she has been all her life.

Bird stated to ESPN that Bird is constantly trying to prove herself.

Skillern stated that this year was a measuring stick for Taurasi, particularly since the Olympics.

"I don’t know what she’s thinking [about retirement]. "I think she still has a bit more, another years or two in her," Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said to ESPN on Saturday. It doesn't matter what age she is, if she can win the Olympic gold medal or the WNBA championships, that will be a huge achievement. It will be a great achievement.

It could also help determine Taurasi's future.