There is a new, and thoroughly deserved accolade about to be bestowed upon Australian basketball legend, Penny Taylor. She will be among the special class of 2023 and inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in August this year. It’s been a long and thrilling journey that is highlighted by one of the most distinguished careers in women’s basketball.
Known for her variety of skills and ability to produce the goods in the big games, Taylor was often referred to as ‘Penny from Heaven’ because of her ability to score when the team needed it most.
She was known as a 185cm forward who possessed a high-basketball IQ and was gifted with an outstanding skill set. Taylor demanded much of herself and was always focussed on not how many points she would personally score, but on how many points the team needed to win. The ultimate competitor, her determination and leadership saw her rise to captain the Australian team with honour.
A Queen of the Game
Penny Taylor was born and raised in the outer Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, she was part of the famous AIS team of teenagers who went on to take the WNBL by storm by winning the 1999 championship. As a 21 and 22-year-old, Taylor dominated the competition with back-to-back wins of the league’s MVPs before her global career took off.
Taylor’s star studded success had her name at the top for nearly 20 years and included an amazing list of performances such as 3 Olympic Games and two silver medals, success and championships all throughout Europe and in the WNBA. It was her four World Cups that saw the highest glory with the award of a gold medal and tournament MVP in 2006.
With an ability to shoot sweetly from mid range and beyond the arc, she loved taking on her opponents one on one to the basket. With a mix of her trademark fancy footwork and ability to cross over and attack the lanes, she was most damaging in transition and almost unstoppable coming off screens. A strong bodied guard with the ability to finish either hand in the paint with contact, it was this offensive prowess that saw her become a three-time WNBA All star.
A testament to her standing in the game was that her Phoenix Mercury number 13 jersey was retired in 2017 and a section of the Mercury arena was renamed ‘Section 13’ for the remainder of the season.
An inspiration for others
Part of Taylor’s stunning career included playing in Italy, Russia and Turkey during the WNBA off-season where she won the league at least once.
She was thrilled to be able to play in Europe and loved playing for FIBA. She looks back with fondness at those special times and being able to play in a variety of great leagues around the world, getting to experience other cultures and learn a new language. In her one words, “All those things for me were massive, they were huge. So getting recognition for doing that even though it wasn’t easy, is nice, it’s special.”
Her career highlight is more than obvious. It was the 2006 World Cup in Brazil where Taylor played a massive role in what is now Australian basketball history.
Her only goal was always to win and it was her team's time to really shine by winning their only gold medal as the Opals.
During the WNBA offseason, Taylor has played in Italy, Russia and Turkey, winning each league at least once
Along with Lauren Jackson, it is no surprise that Penny Taylor has inspired a whole new generation of Australian basketball enthusiasts to follow their dreams.
It’s no great surprise that Taylor has gone above and beyond that young girl from the outskirts of Melbourne.