The WNBA celebrated its 20th year this season and for 15 of those years, Tamika Catchings gave her heart and soul to the Indiana Fever...
On September 21st, Catchings’ remarkable career came to an end in the 89-78 first-round loss to Phoenix in the WNBA playoffs. It was an emotional night for the City of Indianapolis and the Fever franchise as they struggled to say goodbye to a player who gave so much to their city and to the sport itself.
Catchings announced at the beginning of the 2016 season that it would be her last. True to her nature she didn’t want a big farewell tour, but rather chose to use her retirement as an opportunity to give back to the communities that had given so much to her. The Nike-sponsored 12-City Legacy Tour had no gifts or lavish introductions, but rather fundraising parties where all proceeds went to Catchings’ Catch The Stars Foundation, an organization that promotes literacy, fitness and mentoring.
Catchings, the daughter of NBA player Harvey Catchings, had a stellar basketball career:
– 2,113 collegiate points (fourth all-time leading scorer at Tennessee)
– 12 consecutive WNBA playoffs
– 1 WNBA Championship
– 4 Olympic Gold Medals
Growing up with a hearing-impairment, Catchings took up basketball as a way to avoid the bullying she got from other kids. They made fun of her bulky hearing aids; but they couldn’t make fun of her basketball skills. Maybe it’s these early challenges that set her on her path of empathy and giving. Her foundation, the mission of which is to use mentoring to help promote fitness and literacy, has raised nearly $1 million. It has set up reading corners in community centers, fitness clinics and annual holiday basketball camps as well as six-week mentoring programs to help teach kids ages 12-16 mentoring skills. Additionally, the foundation awards two $2,500 scholarships to high school scholar athletes each year.
Catchings has been a staple in the game for 20 years. She will be a hard player to replace not only for the Indiana organization, but for the WNBA as a whole. Her selflessness and leadership along with her basketball skills made her a special player, evident by the huge show of emotion at her last game. Through the many sobs, teammate Briann January tried to articulate what the loss of Catchings means to her…
“That’s my rock, man. She’s just impacted every area of my life and has always been there for me and taught me so much about being a professional, about being a good person.”
Catchings may be done with basketball on the court, but I’m betting she won’t stay out of the game for long. Last February, USA Basketball launched a concerted youth development initiative, a program dedicated to providing education and training to kids and coaches across the country and word has it they want Catchings involved. I think it’s a perfect fit.