Eight games into the 2014 season, Diana Taurasi ranks top 10 in the WNBA in 15 different statistical categories:
No. 7 in points per game (17.9)
No. 8 in points per 40 minutes (22.4)
No. 8 in total points (143)
No. 5 in assists per game (5.5)
No. 7 in assists per 40 minutes (6.9)
No. 7 in total assists (44)
No. 3 in free-throws made (37)
No. 6 in free-throw attempts (39)
No. 2 in free-throws per 40 minutes (5.8)
No. 3 in free-throw percentage (.949)
No. 8 in free-throw attempts per 40 min. (6.1)
No. 9 in minutes per game (32.0)
No. 7 in total three-point field goals made (14)
No. 4 in three-point field goal attempts (42)
No. 8 in efficiency ranking (18.6)
Spoiler alert: these individual numbers mean absolutely nothing to Taurasi.
All that matters is the number of Ws in the Mercury's win column. And at 6-2 so far, the Mercury has matched the best eight-game start in franchise history.
As her illustrious career continues, Taurasi has adapted to various styles of play that best suits that particular roster and team " something that is infinitely easier said than done, especially when many consider you to be the best player in the world.
In the run-and-gun years, Phoenix needed her to put the ball in the basket as much as humanly possible (not that it would be frowned upon now).
In the past few years, as the league has progressed, they"ve needed her ability to create and get the entire team involved (which is a direct correlation with being amongst the league-leaders in assists).
Nevertheless, it's one thing to have an evolving game but another thing entirely to be effective at it - and finish amongst the league-leaders in the process.
Case in point: In 2013, she became the first player in the league's 17-year history to average 20.0 points and 6.0 assists in a single season and the first player to finish in the top two in scoring and assists in the same season (Becky Hammon, 2009, is the lone player to finish in the top three).
That is to say, Taurasi has made a habit of willingly and enthusiastically shaping her game for the betterment of the team, and 2014 is no different.
This season (through eight games), Taurasi has led the Mercury in scoring five times but she's also led Phoenix in assists five times.
As her all-around game continues to develop, so has her 'living legend" status in the WNBA. Taurasi is now third all-time in total points (6,329), third in total three-pointers made (763), fourth in free throws made (1,474), seventh in total field goals made (2,046) and ninth in total assists (1,307).
But it's more than the quantifiable stats that fans see; it's how she carries herself as a leader on the floor. Indeed, she's made these modifications to her game without saying she's doing so. Part of being a true leader isn't saying, "Follow me," but rather, "I'll go first."
But don't take my word for it.
Listen. Watch. Observe. Taurasi rarely (if ever) says "I" when discussing the team. It's because she doesn't think "I."