Penny, I write to you as a fan of basketball, saying thank you.

Dear Penny,

I would like to offer you a heart-felt thanks for everything you have done for Australian, no, check that, for basketball in general during your incredible career.

From the early days with the AIS squad, it was obvious you were something special. As an Australian, I was so excited for the young squad that came through. Two players in particular caught the attention of the basketball public. One was a young Lauren Jackson, the other was you.

From the 1998-99 season, I have followed your career with incredible interest. From your WNBL days, to your draft in 2001 where you were taken by the Cleveland Rockers in the WNBA, I have watched your game.

After the Rockers were disbanded, I rejoiced when you were taken by the Phoenix Mercury. The Mercury had selected another Australian in the team where Michelle Timms started it all for us in the WNBA. It was here where I truly began to see the true Penny Taylor.

You combination with fellow legends Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi was something to be seen. Pondexter did Pondexter things and Taurasi made a good living from the outside. You drove hard against the tall timber of the WNBA, daring them to stop you.

I actually started to call you kamikaze; your complete disregard for your own safety for the benefit of the team was worthy of respect and admiration. Unfortunately it did cost you. In 2009, you had to sit out a large chunk of the WNBA season due to ankle surgery. I could do nothing but admire your commitment to the team, where you accepted a bench role when you came back. Anything to help the team win.

In 2012, your body started to give out. I was shattered in 2012 when your knee gave out, causing a year on the sidelines. When you returned in 2013, you only had another six games before the other knee went. This was all worth it for another title in 2014.

What I did not know at the time was you lost your mother to cancer during the 2012 recovery. My heart went out to you when I found out. You gave so much and expected so little from your adoring legion of fans. It was your time out in 2015 which made me understand how much you truly gave to us all.

You lost your father and had to sit out for rest, I totally get that. I found it difficult to understand at the time but I actually had not followed your European campaigns. I did not realize up until this time just how much time you spent away, how much time you sacrificed from the ones you loved.

This was when I first realized why you had to do this, why almost every month of the year you were somewhere away from home. Without the proper level of payment, we are keeping you, and many other champion athletes from being with loved ones.

In 2016, I was sad twice myself, once when I saw you play your last WNBA game with Phoenix and once when I saw you cry. Yes, in just under 20 years of basketball, I only once saw you cry tears that were not happy. The moment when the Opals lost their final game at the 2016 Olympics and you fronted the media. The raw emotion which you displayed showed simply how much representing your country meant to you. In true Penny Taylor fashion, you did not let anyone else take the questions, you were the captain, you took the good with the bad.

I will be the first to stand up and admit I cried with you. You and the entire team, had put so much into your performance and yet you still lost. I wish for your sake you could have gone out with another medal but it was not to be.

Penny, you are a true inspiration. You have left the game of basketball in Australia in an incredibly good place. You have found true happiness with the wonderful Diana Taurasi and while that may mean you never live in Australia again, I am so happy for you. Again, from the bottom of my heart Penny, I say thank you for giving so much of yourself to the country and sport we both love so much. There may never be another Penny Taylor, I am just grateful for the one we had.

Featured image credit: Penny Taylor Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Penny-Taylor-215318942432/
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