Since its inception in 1996, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) has undergone a remarkable evolution, shaping both the landscape of women's sports and the broader cultural perception of women in athletics.

The WNBA emerged as a crucial platform for elite female athletes to showcase their talents on a professional stage. In its early years, the league faced skepticism and challenges, including questions about its financial viability and its ability to attract and retain audiences. However, through strategic marketing efforts, grassroots initiatives and the sheer brilliance of its players, the association steadily gained momentum and began to carve out its niche in the sports world.

Moreover, the WNBA became a beacon of representation and empowerment by providing young girls with role models and breaking down barriers for women in sports. Major milestones, such as the drafting of marquee players like Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, as well as the "We Got Next" and social justice campaigns, have further cemented the league's place in the cultural zeitgeist.

Along with league leaders like A’ja Wilson, incoming players like Angel Reese and Caitlyn Clark look to take the popularity and overall success of the league to an entirely new level. REVOLT put together a list of 15 WNBA greats who have both excelled at the sport and helped to increase the league's exposure as stars on and off the court. Check out the list below.

1. Lisa Leslie

A true WNBA pioneer, Lisa Leslie spent her entire pro career with the Los Angeles Sparks and collected two championships, three MVPs and two Finals MVPs before retiring from the game. She also made history as the first player to dunk during a WNBA game. The Compton-born talent also earned a fair share of gold medals while representing the USA Basketball Women's National Team, including four during the Olympic Games.

2. Sheryl Swoopes

Many would consider Sheryl Swoopes the GOAT thanks to her many accolades as a shooting guard and small forward, including four rings as a member of the Houston Comets. The first woman signed to the WNBA was also a three-time MVP, a six-time All-Star and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Off the court, she became the first woman to get her own signature shoe when Nike unveiled the popular Air Swoopes.

3. Sue Bird

Sue Bird spent her entire WNBA career as part of the Seattle Storm, eventually becoming the first player in the league to win titles in three different decades. She also competed in the Russia Premier League and FIBA's EuroLeague Women in that timeframe. As a member of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team, Bird won a whopping five Olympic gold medals in Athens, Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

4. Candace Parker

A reigning center with the Los Angeles Sparks, Candace Parker earned a championship ring and a wealth of other honors during her time on that squad. She also played for the Chicago Sky and the Las Vegas Aces – where she won a second and third championship – before retiring. Parker is the first WNBA player to win both the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player awards in the same season. She, along with the NBA’s Wilt Chamberlain and Wes Unseld, are the only professional American basketball players to achieve this.

5. Tina Thompson

During her professional career as both a small forward and power forward, Tina Thompson racked up plenty of numbers as a member of the Houston Comets, the Los Angeles Sparks and the Seattle Storm. The four-time WNBA champion also played in Italy, South Korea, Russia and Romania. At one point, Thompson was the league’s all-time leading scorer; she now ranks second.

6. Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner is without a doubt one of the Phoenix Mercury’s greatest players. The WNBA champion collected multiple scoring champion and blocks leader honors throughout her career, as well as placements on the league’s All-WNBA First Team and Second Team lists. Off the court, Griner became the first openly gay athlete to secure a Nike endorsement deal. She also used her platform to speak out against the senseless killing of Breonna Taylor.

7. Tina Charles

Tina Charles is debatably the greatest WNBA player to not have won a title – a distinction that could very well change before her eventual retirement. She’s played for a slew of teams throughout her career, including the Connecticut Sun, the New York Liberty, the Washington Mystics and the Atlanta Dream. She earned Rookie of the Year honors and also won three gold medals in London, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

8. Skylar Diggins-Smith

During the earlier years of her WNBA career, Skylar Diggins-Smith was heavily admired by some of Hip Hop’s biggest artists and was regularly referenced in songs within the genre. Why? Her impressive career stats – which include multiple All-Star, First Team, and Second Team honors – are one of the many reasons for her popularity, which helped to increase the league’s profile. The star was also notable for signing with Roc Nation Sports as the company’s first female athlete to ink a deal and securing endorsement contracts with BODYARMOR and Nike.

9. Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi stands as one of only 11 players to win a FIBA World Cup gold medal (of which she won three), an Olympic gold medal (five), an NCAA championship (three) and a WNBA championship (three). The still-active player was also voted by fans into the WNBA Top 15 Players of All Time list and was inducted into the league’s Top 20@20 and W25 anniversary teams.

10. Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings spent her entire WNBA career with the Indiana Fever, where she won a championship. Like Taurasi, the retired small forward also managed to win a FIBA World Cup, an NCAA Championship, and an Olympic gold medal during her active career. She has also been selected to 10 WNBA All-Star teams, 12 All-WNBA teams and 12 All-Defensive teams.

11. Sylvia Fowles

Sylvia Fowles played for the Chicago Sky and Minnesota Lynx, the latter of which she helped win two championships. During her professional tenure, she won a single WNBA MVP Award and is a four-time Defensive Player of the Year recipient. Fowles, who also played professionally in Russia, Turkey and China, is the all-time WNBA leader in rebounds and the only one to cross the 4,000 mark in that category.

12. Rebekkah Brunson

Rebekkah Brunson’s career achievements with the WNBA are extraordinary, with five league championships, five All-Star appearances and six All-Defensive Second Team honors. In addition to competing internationally, the DMV-raised power forward played for Sacramento Monarchs and the Minnesota Lynx, the latter of where she holds an assistant coach position.

13. Maya Moore

Here’s a definitive take: Sports Illustrated called Maya Moore the "greatest winner in the history of women's basketball." Her career wins include four WNBA championships, an MVP and a Finals MVP honor, and six All-Star appearances. She is also one of 11 women to have earned an Olympic gold medal, a FIBA World Cup gold medal, a WNBA title and an NCAA title.

14. Elizabeth Cambage

Competing internationally, Liz Cambage previously held positions with the Tulsa Shock, the Dallas Wings, the Las Vegas Aces and the Los Angeles Sparks. The Australian-raised athlete shares the WNBA single-game scoring record of 53 with A’ja Wilson.

15. Dawn Staley

Before she won multiple titles as an NCAA coach, Dawn Staley was a force to be reckoned with in the WNBA as a player for the Charlotte Sting and the Houston Comets. During her professional career on the court, she was a six-time WNBA All-Star. The 10th and 15th WNBA Anniversary Team honoree also won three gold medals with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team.