Catchings ends career on her own terms

WBNA 20in20nobylineFor 20 weeks, to commemorate the WNBA’s 20th season (the MSR having covered each season), the MSR sports section will feature at least one column or article on the W in our “20 in 20” series.

Their fathers once were NBA teammates. Their children are future Hall of Famers.

Joe Bryant played seven NBA seasons. Harvey Catchings played in the league for 11 seasons. Both men once were Philadelphia 76ers teammates.

How ironic that one of Bryant’s offspring, Kobe Bryant, just retired at the end of this completed season, and one of Catchings’ offspring, Tamika Catchings, announced last season that she’d retire after this WNBA campaign.

As Kobe was feted on his farewell tour with parting gifts along the way, Tamika instead is giving back. After her final visit in each of the 11 WNBA cities, Catchings will auction off her specially designed game shoes and other items to raise funds for her nonprofit Catch the Stars Foundation as well as provide a $2,000 grant to a local organization that works with youth.

Tamika Catchings
Tamika Catchings

She’s scheduled to be in town June 14 when Indiana plays Minnesota in her final regular-season playing visit this year.

This is Catchings staying true to her giving personality, notes former ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck of the 15-year veteran forward, pointing out that Catchings has earned some sort of recognition even though she would be greatly uncomfortable with sappy farewell gestures.

“She deserves it. Does she want it? I don’t think that’s the first [thing] in her mind. I think what she wants more is to be able to go out leaving the Indiana Fever with another championship,” states Peck.

The WNBA started when Catchings was 17 years old. After a sterling collegiate career, Catchings, like Bryant, has spent her entire pro career with one club. She recently became only the second league player to score at least 7,000 points and is the only W player historically to rank among the top 10 in career points, rebounds, assists, steals and games played.

A 10-time All Star, rookie of the year, a league MVP and Finals MVP, she won the first humanitarian award by ESPN last July.

The MSR recently talked to Catchings —we’ve spoken on several occasions during her career, and on each occasion she has been generous with her time. She told us that when she was in seventh grade she told her NBA-playing father that she would follow in his footsteps and play pro ball, even though a U.S. women’s basketball league like the WNBA hadn’t materialized yet. Her father didn’t discourage her at all, his daughter recalled.

“The advice I remember the most from him is that when you’re done playing, I won’t be mad — just let me know,” said Catchings. [He said,] “I want you to be 110 percent. As long as you’re committed, I’ll help as much as I can.”

Now over a decade later, Catchings will later this year leave a league stronger than it was when she was drafted. She also is leaving on her terms.

“Now, as I retire, there are other things that I want to do,” said Catchings. “What I want to do, I don’t know.

“I never wanted to be that player [of whom it is said] at the end, ‘I remember when she used to do this or she used to do that’ type of player,” concluded Catchings. “I want you to know I’m still able to play.”


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