Tamika Catchings Ends Extraordinary Career with the Same Mentality that Made Her a Legend

Mar 9, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Team USA basketball player Tamika Catchings during the 2016 Team USA Media Summit at Beverly Hilton. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Team USA basketball player Tamika Catchings during the 2016 Team USA Media Summit at Beverly Hilton. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Tamika Catchings played her final game for the Indiana Fever on Wednesday night. Her 16-year career ended in a 89-78 loss to the Phoenix Mercury in the first round of the WNBA playoffs during the league’s first year with a single-elimination first round.

She finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 steals — a very Tamika Catchings-like stat line. At the age of 37, and in her final game, she is still doing a little bit of everything for her team.

All the stats, numbers, and honors that surround Tamika’s career are remarkable. She walks away from basketball as the WNBA’s All-Time leader in rebounds, free throws made, and steals. She’s second in points scored.

She was Rookie of the Year in 2002, WNBA MVP in 2011, and Finals MVP in 2012. She’s won a WNBA championship and brought home four gold medals. She made the All-WNBA Team 11 times. And she’s been named Defensive Player of the Year five times.

Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

That list of accomplishments is nearly unbelievable. Tamika Catchings has simply been the best.

With everyone knowing the end was near, Tamika was celebrated and honored all season for her legendary career. But the outpouring of affection was ramped up even further over the last week.

Before Wednesday’s game she was awarded with the 2016 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, an honor given each season to a player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, including ethical behavior, fair play, and integrity.

Those qualities have always been what made Tamika stand out from her peers.

Her work ethic, her drive, her determination.

She wanted be the best player on the court at all times. The first one to the gym and the last to leave. She led by example for her teammates and made everyone around her better.

On Sunday, during the Fever’s last regular season home game, it was a day to honor the great Tamika Catchings. A crowd of 17,704 showed up to celebrate and show support for one of the best professional athletes Indiana sports will ever see.

From the mayor of Indianapolis to the WNBA president in the building, and video messages coming from Peyton Manning, Reggie Miller, and Robin Roberts, it was an afternoon of well-deserved praise for Tamika.

Nike also did what Nike does best and had posters made for all 17,000 fans in attendance along with a few videos.

Indiana Pacers players, including Paul George and Myles Turner, offered words to try to describe what Tamika Catchings has meant to them as an inspiration and, for George, a “Big Sis.”

The on-the-court accolades will never be what matters most to Tamika.

What she did off the court is what she wants her lasting legacy to be.

Just this season, she was honored for a second time with the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award.

"“How fitting that we again honor Tamika Catchings with this award in her final season in the WNBA, her dedication to her community has been just as strong as her commitment to the game of basketball, and countless young people are better off because of both.The beauty of Tamika is that the end of her basketball career only means more time for her to continue her outstanding work in the community. For that, she will continue to be an inspiration to me and so many others.”"

Tamkia also spent her final season promoting The Legacy Tour, which involved 12 cities, a Nike ID shoe designing contest, and a post-game party.

They set a goal of raising $100,000 throughout the season to support her Catch the Stars Foundation while expanding programming into 11 new cities in 2017.

You can try count all the accolades and the dollars raised. You can try to describe what Tamika Catchings has meant to the game of basketball. You can try to explain her impact on the Indianapolis community.

But the best definition of Tamika Catchings, the player and person, came with 13.1 seconds remaining in her final basketball game.

Last night, Fever head coach Stephanie White sent a sub for Tamika to the scorer’s table with the game virtually out of reach. White wanted to give Tamika one final ovation from the crowd and her fans.

Catchings immediately waved off the sub. One of the greatest to ever play stayed in the game for the last 13.1 seconds.

After the game Tamika Catchings gave her reason: “I don’t want to spend 13.1 seconds on the bench knowing I had 13.1 more seconds to give everything I’ve got.”