Indianapolis, Ind. – Fever forward Tamika Catchings was honored at a retirement ceremony for the ages Sunday in front of 17,704 fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse – all wearing No. 24 T-shirts.
After leading her team to victory and a fifth-seed playoff spot in their last regular-season game, the WNBA’s multiple-category statistical leader settled in to hear from a parade of admirers. And oh, the things they said.
Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett joked that if Catchings was on the ballot with him the year before, she would have won. He told the 15-year franchise veteran that she needed to stay in town. Indiana’s 5th District Congresswoman Susan Brooks presented Catchings with a flag that was flown over the capitol on her behalf.
WNBA president Lisa Borders took the mic next, and told her she was a “rock star.” Borders also said she hoped Catchings would come to New York and work for the WNBA. Fever president Kelly Krauskopf talked about how she knew Catchings was the right draft pick in 2001, even though she had a torn ACL and wouldn’t be able to play for a year.
Former Fever coach Lin Dunn invoked the memory of former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who passed away in June. She told Catchings that former Lady Vol assistants Holly Warlick and Mickie DeMoss “treasured” her. Current Fever coach Stephanie White told stories of Catchings as a young teen, and of a rookie who could only watch her team play as she rehabilitated.
Indiana point guard Briann January brought tears to Catchings’ eyes when she told her how much she had helped her over the eight years that they’ve played together. Other speakers included representatives from USA Basketball and Catchings’ long time sponsor, Nike.
The Indiana Pacers presented her with a check for $100,000 for her Catch the Stars Foundation. Then, they gave her a new car.
Former teammates Shavonte Zellous, Katie Douglas and Jessica Davenport were in attendance. Players from around the WNBA paid tribute to Catchings via video.
When Catchings took the floor, she first talked about how she began playing basketball as an escape from bullying when she was a child. Before long, the sport had become a passion, and she aspired to play professionally. But she said “never in my wildest dreams” did she envision ending up with such an historic career.
The Fever play a loser-out playoff game at home Wednesday, against the Phoenix Mercury, and Catchings told the crowd to return then.
After the ceremony, she posed for pictures and signed autographs for fans.