WYMAN'S WORDS: Catchings' retirement leaves lasting legacy on Indiana
Elizabeth Wyman is a junior journalism major and writes "Wyman's Words" for the Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Elizabeth at email@example.com.
With 1:44 left in Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings’ final regular season home game, she calmly makes her way to the bench for the final time. A stoppage of play that should typically take a short eight to 10 seconds took three minutes. Three minutes dedicated to Catchings. Every last person in Bankers Life Fieldhouse is on their feet standing, clapping, wearing their #24forever T-shirts and holding up signs that read “Thank you Tamika.”
A three minute of reflection on Catchings’ legendary 15-year WNBA career — all spent with Indiana. A career that includes her name in the top five of essentially every record there is. Rookie of The Year, five-time Defensive Player of the Year, WNBA championship, four gold medals with USA basketball, second all-time in points, first in steals, free throws and rebounds.
But that three-minute reflection, for me at least, focused more on what Catchings did off the court. For what she gave to the state of Indiana and for little girls who grew up playing basketball watching one of the all-time greats develop into the legend she now is.
Catchings was a giver. That was evident from everyone who spoke at her post game retirement ceremony. She started the Catch the Stars Foundation in 2004, a program that helps low to moderate-income youth throughout the Indianapolis area promoting fitness, literacy and youth development. She has hosted countless local basketball camps, backpack drives, food collections, charity appearances and even pictures taken with wide-eyed young ballers who have looked up to her from the beginning (yes, me).
She has left a mark on the sports world comparable to what Peyton Manning left on the city of Indianapolis. Not to mention they both had professional athlete fathers, went to the University of Tennessee, brought a championship to the state and beloved by their city.
The WNBA is not the most watched or attended professional sport. Some people consider it a joke. On Tamika’s night, the Fieldhouse was nearly filled with fans spilling into the balcony — all for Catchings.
Time and time again Catchings has proven that women not only have game, but can give back at the same time. She engraved her name on the sport of basketball and the state of Indiana bigger than most male athletes can even dream of doing.
So that three minutes was to say thank you. Thank you for all that she has done over the past 15 years, the influence she had on the WNBA, her teammates, the community and all young kids that looked up to her like me, was astounding.
Athletes, or even people, like Tamika Catchings don’t come around very often. Indiana was lucky enough to have one. For that alone, she is a legend in my book.