Tina Charles joins Mercury 2 years after nearly teaming up with Diana Taurasi

Feb 11, 2022, 8:05 PM
US guard Diana Taurasi (L) and US centre Tina Charles react during the Women's preliminary round gr...
US guard Diana Taurasi (L) and US centre Tina Charles react during the Women's preliminary round group A basketball match of the London 2012 Olympic Games USA vs Croatia on July 28, 2012 at the basketball arena in London. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/GettyImages)

The roots of Tina Charles, one of the WNBA’s best players of the last decade, signing with the Phoenix Mercury go back to 2012.

Charles was in Turkey playing professionally for Galatasaray and was teammates with Diana Taurasi. She got an up-close look at how the G.O.A.T. became just that through individual workouts she did with Taurasi.

Charles said that played a part in her becoming the MVP of the WNBA the following season. They played on three Olympic teams together, where she also spent time alongside Mercury players Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner.

In the 2020 offseason, Charles nearly joined Griner and Taurasi in Phoenix.

Charles said it “was extremely close” before making a phone call to Taurasi and telling her mom, “I think I just said no to Kobe Bryant.”

Two years later, she said yes.

Charles joins the Mercury after the idea really started to percolate in the last Olympics, the 2021 edition. She knew she had free agency coming up and Phoenix was again on her mind as a possibility.

“Picking their brains and just seeing how it was here,” she said Thursday of her time with the Mercury trio in Tokyo. “Being able to see what was missing from them, being able to watch the Finals and knowing I was going to enter entering free agency and just saying to myself, ‘I think I can make a difference in Phoenix. I think I can help.'”

Once the Mercury acquired Diamond DeShields, a friend of Charles’ who is a former WNBA All-Star as well, that cemented it.

“When she told me she was signing, it sealed the deal,” Charles said of DeShields. “And I was like, all right, this is where I want to be. It made this roster that much stronger with how special of a player she is.”

Charles’ evolving thought process was centered around one of her core beliefs at this stage of her career.

The nine-time All-WNBA player and last year’s scoring champ that has never made it past the conference finals wanted to win.

“I wanted to be around winners,” Charles said. “Not just winners, [like] the team record, but winners. Individuals that take their job seriously. Who put work first, who is all about being in the gym, players that you have to kick them out of the gym in that type of sense. And I know that about Skylar. I know that about BG. And I know that about Diana.”

The Mercury’s precedent as a winning franchise helped too.

“The pedigree that Phoenix Mercury always has,” Charles said of what interested her. “How competitive it always has been, being really good friends with Diana, it just really made it very simple for me as far as free agency went and where I wanted to be and what’s important for me and that’s just to win and make teammates better around me.”

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Tina Charles joins Mercury 2 years after nearly teaming up with Diana Taurasi