The Utah Starzz finished the 1997 season with the worst record in the league at 7-21, earning the team the number one pick in the 1998 WNBA Draft.
The league added two teams during the offseason—the Detroit Shock and the Washington Mystics—bringing the league total to ten. The Houston Comets were moved from the Eastern Conference to the West, and the Shock and Mystics were both slotted into the East.
Although there were a number of outstanding collegians available, including Allison Feaster (Harvard), Tracy Reid (North Carolina) and Murriel Page, the first round of the draft had a decidedly international flavor to it.
The first overall pick in the draft became obvious to all at the WNBA Pre-Draft Camp when 7-2 Margo Dydek of Poland walked into the gymnasium. Due to what has been described in subsequent press articles as a clerical error, Dydek was listed in the league’s advance materials as being 6-6—a full eight inches shorter than her actual height.
Needless to say, the thought of a player with a seven-foot wing span manning the paint for the Starzz was too great to pass up, and Utah made the 23-year-old Dydek the first pick in the draft.
Dydek averaged 12.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in her first year in Utah, while setting the WNBA record for blocked shots in a season with 114. That record stood for 16 years until Brittney Griner swatted 129 shots in the 2014 season.
Affectionately known as “Large Marge,” Dydek played her first five seasons in the league for the Starzz, moving with the team to San Antonio for the 2003 and 2004 campaigns. Dydek was dealt on draft day, 2005 (April 16) to the Connecticut Sun in exchange for the Sun’s first-round draft pick, Katie Feenstra.
Dydek played with Connecticut for three seasons, and after giving birth to her first son, David, signed with the Los Angeles Sparks on June 3, 2008. She played just two games with Los Angeles, in what would be her last year in the WNBA.
Dydek led the league in blocked shots in nine of her 10 full seasons in the league, and still holds the WNBA’s career blocked shots record with 877.
Dydek and her husband, David Twigg, welcomed their second son, Alex, in 2010. Sadly, on May 19, 2011, Dydek suffered a severe heart attack while pregnant with the couples’ third child, and was placed in a medically induced coma. She passed away eight days later on May 27, 2011. Dydek was 37-years old.
In the second round, Utah selected Stanford graduate Olympia Scott. During her rookie campaign, the 6-2 center averaged 5.3 points, and 2.9 rebounds in 29 games, but she missed most of the 1999 campaign after giving birth to her daughter. After playing four games with the Starzz that season, she and teammate Wendy Palmer were dealt to Detroit on July 29 in exchange for Korie Hlede and Cindy Brown.
Scott would go on to play 11 years in the league—three for Indiana (2001-02, 2006), one for Charlotte (2004), one for Sacramento (2005), and two for Phoenix (2007-08). She won WNBA Championships with the Monarchs (2005) and Mercury (2007), becoming the first player in league history to win championships with different teams.
Statistically, Scott’s best year came in 2002 when she posted career highs in scoring (9.4 ppg), rebounding (6.8 rpg) and assists (1.7 apg), while connecting on 48.7 percent of her field goal attempts.
For her career, Scott averaged 4.7 points and 3.2 rebounds, while making 43.8 percent of her shots from the field.
In the third round, Utah drafted 6-1 forward LaTonya Johnson. The Memphis grad averaged 5.4 points and 1.9 rebounds as a rookie, and played with the Starzz through the 2002 season, when the team relocated to San Antonio. She played on year with the Silver Stars (2003) before finishing her WNBA career with Houston in 2004.
Over a 179-game career, Johnson averaged 3.8 points and 1.3 rebounds.
With the team’s fourth round pick, Utah selected Tricia Bader, a guard from Boise State. As a rookie Bader averaged 2.1 points per game, and connected on 37.0 percent of her shots from long distance.
She was traded to Cleveland during the 1999 season, and she remained with the Rockers through 2002.
Bader averaged 1.4 points during in her 100 career WNBA games.
Next up, the greatest draft in professional sports history.