The WNBA’s lone remaining player from their 1997 first season – Tina Thompson – played her last regular-season game this past Saturday. In doing so, she lead the Seattle Storm to a win with 22 points and eight rebounds.
Afterwards, the Storm honored Thompson in a post-game ceremony that included tributes from former teammates, including Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, and current ones. Cooper-Dyke flew up from Los Angeles, where she is now head coach at she and Thompson’s alma mater, USC. Storm players all donned Thompson jerseys and sported her trademark red lipstick.
The ceremony featured numerous tributes from the Storm franchise, and Thompson spoke to the crowd, with her eight-year-old son Dyllan at her side. Many in the crowd of almost 9,000 fans had tears in their eyes.
Following is a transcript of the post-ceremony press conference:
Seattle Storm Head Coach Brian Agler
(on Tina Thompson early in the game):
We always try to get her as many shots as possible. We didn’t do anything differently than we normally do. It was one of those nights when she hit her first couple of shots. It’s just been a long season. We didn’t want to overextend her play, but at the same time we still wanted to be successful and we wanted this night to be special for her. Obviously the competitor she is she’s going to want to win the game. That being said we did what we had to do to have success.
(on taking Thompson out of the game):
We wanted to get her out of the game and let the crowd acknowledge Tina. The officials really did a good job of holding up play while the fans cheered and I said to Tina that she needed to go out and wave, the officials are holding up the game. We’re not in any hurry. We’re going to do this right. She did. She really didn’t want to, but that’s kind of how she is, all business.
(on the playoffs next week):
If you look at our stats, in a lot of ways we don’t look like a team that should be going to the playoffs. But our team’s not really made of that, it’s made of a lot of intangible things – just a lot of heart and persistent play and toughness. We’re going to have to make games like that. Minnesota is a tough foe, a tough match-up. They can score in a lot of different ways and we have to find ways to stop them from doing that. We’ve got to find ways to score. We’ve got a week to prepare and we’ll see what we can do.
(playing on the road):
We’re going to practice down (at the Tacoma Dome) on Tuesday. This is probably the second best road team that I’ve been here. The championship year we won quite a few on the road. I think we were 10-6 and I think this year we are 8-9 so we’re almost .500. That shows the toughness we have because you have to have it to go on the road and have success.
(on the retirement ceremony after her final regular season game):
It was great. I’m glad that it all happened after the game instead of pre-game, because there were a lot of emotions going on. So when the game starts you want to focus on the game. It was a bit much for me, but Karen (Bryant) and everyone tried to taper it down as much as they could. It was a great feeling that people appreciate your body of work and what you’ve done up to this point. And I’m glad it’s over so we focus on games and everyone’s not waiting for the big day.
(on Agler pushing you out on the court to take a wave after coming out of the game):
He did. I was tired. I wanted to give the other girls a change to play. We have some younger players like Tianna (Hawkins) and Joslyn (Tinkle) who don’t get to play as much. I felt the game was in control.
(any part of you that wants to play one more season?):
No. I want to go about 12 more games and anything beyond that, no.
(take any pride that people keep asking the question about playing another year?)
I think that it’s cool, but I made the decision I made for a reason. My body can only take so much. I’d rather retire from the game than have the game retire from me. I’m okay. I’m happy with where I am and how it’s going. For me, I kind of always feel like it’s not so hard to score points, but to be able to defend and rebound and do all the things that you need to do that are necessary to win, it takes a lot more. It’s a lot harder to defend and rebound and do those things than it is to play offense. People kind of see me scoring points and they think I could play forever, but there are two ends of the floor in basketball. You have to play offense and defense. As much as everyone wants me to play forever, if I could I guess I would play forever too if it didn’t hurt so bad, but it’s just kind of one of those things where you just know. And I know. It’s time.
(didn’t outwardly show emotion during the ceremony):
It’s my personality, but I knew that if I showed emotion than everyone would and it would have taken a lot longer than it actually did. And also my son Dylan isn’t really happy at this moment about the fact that I was retiring. If I had started crying than he would have been emotional and got upset. I’ve been telling him the entire time that this is a happy occasion and that me being able to play 17 seasons is not something that happens often. It’s not normal so we should be really happy that we’ve been able to have this experience, rather than be sad that it’s over. It’s a pretty rare thing so it’s something that can be celebrated instead of mourned.
Dylan really revels in being in the arena and the energy and just being around the girls. I wasn’t kidding when I said that Diana (Taurasi) and Sue (Bird) were two of his first friends. They really were. He hung out with them, played games with them, and listened to music and did all these fun things. Although he’s only eight-years old he sees them a lot differently than other people. Not very many kids are able to experience what he has and being able to hang out with Dwight Howard or LeBron James or Chris Paul, and see them for the people that they are and not like these amazing athletes. He knows they are really good basketball players, but the relationship he has with them is different. Me being away from the game will change the dynamics. I think he feels that if we’re away from the game the relationships will change. I’m like, “Your friends are your friends. The relationships won’t change.” As an eight-year old that’s something that he’ll have to see and experience rather than me trying to tell him about it.
(stay at home mom now?):
I’d like to do commentary and analysis or something like that. I don’t see coaching in my future. But I won’t be far away. I love the game of basketball. I’m not just a player, I’m a fan too. I won’t be too far away.
(hitting a couple of threes early in the game):
They left me open. I took them. We played Minnesota a few games in a row and they didn’t allow me those shots, so seeing a little opening has been a rare occurrence. I was taking advantage of the opportunities.