Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star 2015 was more than just a showcase of the most skilled players the league has to offer; it marked the beginning of a farewell tour for one of the most beloved professional athletes of our time, as Indiana Fever legend Tamika Catchings participated in her final, and most memorable WNBA All-Star weekend. While Catchings earned the record for the most All-Star games in league history with her 10th appearance on the Eastern Conference roster, it was clear that this one was about more than just the game.
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During the postgame press conference Catchings spoke about the respect that she garnered from the younger players during this experience. “You could tell that every single moment that they could they would hug or touch me,” she said. “It was kind of a surreal moment, like ‘this is it’. But, I was like ‘look, I’m not leaving yet. I’ll be back next year’.”
Despite the fact that the former league MVP will play another season, Saturday’s game at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut was her last All-Star Game due to there being no game next year because of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Only a few days after her 36th birthday, Catchings was presented with a jersey that was signed by all of her fellow All-Stars, including 10 first timers. As she absorbed the acclaim, Catchings still had vivid memories of when being a professional basketball player was still just a dream that she would strive to make come true.
“From seventh grade on I was going to be in the NBA and I was determined that I was going to play with the guys,” Catchings said. “Nobody could tell me ‘no’. And then when the ‘W’ (WNBA) came, my goal switched and I wanted to be in the WNBA… I just remember saying ‘I want to be like that one day… I want to be remembered like they’ll be remembered.’ And so now you fast-forward, and I will be.”
In 2002, a bright-eyed Catchings took the court with veteran superstars in her first All-Star Game when she started alongside Teresa Weatherspoon to take on Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie. Now, 13 years have passed and she is the respected matriarch who is passing the torch to a younger generation of gifted performers. Catchings made it a point to play as many minutes as she could with third year star Elena Delle Donne, cherishing the on-court moments that she may never have again.
That’s not to say that Catchings’ All-Star selection was a career achievement award, or a going away pat on the back. The 14-year forward was, once again, entirely deserving of the honors based on her play this year. Catchings is leading the Fever in both scoring and rebounding and has led the team to an 8-5 record with her on the court this season.
The WNBA’s all-time steals leader played with her signature heart and hustle in this exhibition contest, grabbing ten rebounds to go along with her eight points and six assists. Although Catchings did add yet another record to her portfolio during the game, becoming the all-time leader in WNBA All-Star Game points with 108, she has never been a self-centered player.
“We have scorers everywhere, and that’s what people choose to focus on sometimes. But you also need those players who are willing to do whatever it takes to help their team win, and that’s what I want to be too,” stated the five time Defensive Player of the Year after being asked about her style of play.
So, even as she begins her swan song into the Pantheon of sports, she remains humble and hungry, staying true to what has made her an All-Star, a champion, and perhaps the most revered player the league has ever known.