NEWARK, N.J. — Katie Smith got a walking cane from her New York Liberty teammates last week as a birthday present. She's still many years away from needing it.
The oldest player in the WNBA, the 39-year-old veteran continues to put up solid numbers and help the Liberty win basketball games. She also reached a personal milestone, moving into second on the WNBA's career scoring list Friday night, passing Lisa Leslie.
"It's pretty cool. I tell most people those type of records are about consistency," Smith said. "That's what I'm proud of. You've done a good job and had a lot of productive years, not just a one-hit wonder."
She had 10 points in the Liberty's 78-68 victory over the Connecticut Sun and has 6,272 in her WNBA career — nine more than Leslie. She's still nearly 800 points behind all-time leader Tina Thompson, who announced she plans to retire at the end of this season. Throwing in the nearly 1,400 points Smith scored in the ABL, she is the most prolific scorer in women's pro basketball history.
"It's a lot of pride that you've done good work for a long period of time," Smith said. "You've been consistently at the top or near the top. I still love this game, I love competing and playing. Glad I did it, but someone will get us someday."
After spending two years in the defunct ABL, Smith has played the past 15 seasons in the WNBA and is the only guard among the league's top five scorers. Lauren Jackson is fourth and Tamika Catchings fifth on the list.
"That's amazing," said teammate Cappie Pondexter, who led the Liberty with 20 points in the victory Friday. "She's second behind a great player and passed another great one. Those are historic names. Hopefully, one day I can catch up and pass all of them."
Smith has said this will most likely be her final year playing professionally. She joined the Liberty this season to help provide veteran leadership, but got thrust into a starting role last week when Essence Carson's season ended because of a torn ACL.
First-year Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer coached Smith for five seasons with the Detroit Shock. She won two WNBA titles with Detroit in 2006 and 2008.
"She's an all-time professional," Laimbeer said. "She's just been that hard-nosed player that takes care of her body. She's played so many years because of that. She's gone from prolific scorer to outstanding defender and team leader. I can't say enough about her."
Smith still is the first one on the court taking jumpers before the game. She spent Friday night playing "one-on-one" for a bit with teammate Kara Braxton's young son and cousin.
It didn't take her long to pass Leslie, fittingly making a 3-pointer in the first quarter. Smith is the league's all-time leader in 3s made with nearly 900.
"I used to be more of a driver, now I'm more of a shooter," Smith said laughing.
She was thrilled it came in a victory, which is the most important thing to her.
"This was big getting this win going into this break and keeping ourselves near the top," Smith said before the Liberty have eight days off until playing San Antonio on June 23. "This is going to be a tight race all the way down to the end."
|Boston - WP: M. Ott||4||FINAL|
|Minnesota - LP: M. Hoffman||3|
|UC Santa Barbara||38|
|San Diego St||73|
|Utah Valley U||83|
|Cal State Fullerton||56||FINAL|
|Long Beach State||66|
|Sam Houston St||70|
|New Mexico St||70|
|Miss Valley St||68||FINAL|
|(22) Middle Tennessee||69|
|William & Mary||65|