WNBA's Top 20 Players: No. 16 Alana Beard

Jeffrey EngmannCorrespondent IJune 21, 2009

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 24:  Duke's Alana Beard raises up her framed jersey number after an official ceremony retiring her jersey before the game against Tennessee in Cameron Indoor Stadium January 24, 2004 in Durham, North Carolina. Beard is the first woman basketball player in Duke history to have her jersey retired. She is a two-time Kodak All-American and 2003 National Player of the Year. She is the career point's leader at Duke with 2,320. . (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

The competitive fire that burns through Alana Beard can only be cooled down by dawning the color blue.

Therefore on draft day in 2004, the former Blue Devil was probably relieved when the Phoenix Mercury burned her by selecting Uconn standout Diana Taurasi with the number one draft pick.

It was rumored that Charles Barkley had advised the Mercury to take Beard over Taurasi, and who wouldn’t listen to Charles Barkley‘s basketball expertise? That was sarcasm.

It's not as though Beard didn't possess the credentials and potential to be considered the best. Contrarily, her four years at Duke were nothing short of historic. Beard became the first woman in Duke basketball history to capture the Wooden Award, a prestigious accolade given to the nation's top player. Her legacy was further cemented when she became the first female player ever to have her jersey retired at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Nevertheless, success is like beauty; much of it depends on the eye of the beholder.

Despite pleasing the Cameron Crazies with four years of ACC dominance, her teams inability to make it past the Final Four and capture a national championship had her on the receiving end of a lot of criticism.  Her college resume proved that she was not merely an average player but many couldn't discern if the league should expect great.


The initials fit her like a glove.

Juxtapose the two letters and it magnifies the sharp differences and key distinctions between the number one and two in alphabetical terms. They tell the tale of an athlete whose skills undoubtedly place her among the elite,yet grit and attitude keep her grounded like a B-list celebrity. 

Being overshadowed overlooked and then glossed over on her plight to make the Olympic team, coupled with dealing with the dissapointment of Mystic fans for their team's lack of success is something that Beard simply has to bear. These are the types of burdens that accompany you as a star.

Or should I say superstar? 

That’s the thing about A.B. The dot in between seemingly represents that gap between star and franchise player. But truthfully, her game doesn’t have that many gaps at all so the period seems unjust.

The A and B come together to create a perennial all star, that rare type of player who can impact a game in a variety of different ways. One who probably shouldn’t have to carry the burden of leading a franchise but will do so with a fortuitousness that will command the respect of her teammates and consequently force them to follow in line.

This season the Mystics are off to their best start in recent history. With a 4-1 record, the time sometimes labeled as the 'Mystakes', sit atop the eastern conference. No doubt in her sixth season, a finally healthy Beard is the cornerstone of the franchise and the key to their early success.