Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings is one of the best to ever step foot on a basketball court, and before she and the team embark on her 16th and final season in a Fever uniform, she was honored by the organization, community and city she’s meant so much to at this afternoon’s Tamika Catchings Legacy Luncheon.
The event began with a video featuring various, athletes, celebrities and friends of Catchings describing her in one word. This would become the theme for the day, and words such as relentless, leader, inspiring, special, clutch, caring and determination were just a few of the ways she was labeled. While all of the statements were different, they were all incredibly fitting.
To describe the experience, Catchings could only muster one word herself at first. “Wow,” she said as she reflected on the program. “It’s a blessing for me thinking about where I came from, getting hurt my senior year in college and not knowing what was coming next. Indiana, they took a chance on me, and here I am sixteen years later.”
Various presentations highlighted the afternoon, as some of the most important people in the organization, Indianapolis and the state of Indiana took the stage to recognize her.
Mayor of Indianapolis Joe Hogsett led off the presentations by declaring March 22, 2016, “Tamika Catchings Day.” Governor Mike Pence performed a similar gesture, presenting her with the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest civilian honor in Indiana. It recognizes unique individuals who have made a difference in the lives of Hoosiers across the state.
Rounding out the members of the government to speak, former Mayor of Indianapolis Greg Ballard shared his thoughts on Catchings’ impact on Indianapolis, specifically citing her work and community service with children.
“I just want to thank you for the difference you made in so many people’s lives,” he said.
Members of the Pacers Sports & Entertainment family also took time to share kind words about their beloved Catchings. Vice Chairman of PS&E Jim Morris discussed the profound mark Catchings has made on the entire organization.
“A.J Foyt, Mario Andretti, Reggie Miller, Quinn Buckner, Larry Bird, Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning…wrap it all together and you have Tamika Catchings,” Morris said.
“You have put an extraordinary face on the Indiana Fever, on our company and on our city. You have helped the Indiana Fever become as successful, as respected and as admired as any franchise in all of professional sports. People like you don’t come around too often. You’re a gift to us.”
The woman who drafted Catchings, President and GM of the Indiana Fever Kelly Krauskopf, had some insightful stories about her star player. She shared why the Fever selected Catchings No. 3 overall, despite Catchings tearing her ACL during her senior year in college, and what she’s meant to the team.
“Her commitment to everything she does is unmatched,” Krauskopf said. “She has a profound effect on her teammates in practice and in games.”
In between the presentations more video tributes were played, including a nine-minute biography narrated by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts and compilations of world-class athletes sharing their thoughts on Catchings. All-time greats such as Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Paul George, Reggie Miller, Katie Douglas and Peyton Manning appeared on screen. And in a surprise to Catchings, her favorite player, Alonzo Mourning, contributed a video message for her.
“The speakers were amazing,” Catchings shared with an enormous smile on her face. “To try not to cry I told myself to think happy thoughts.”
The keynote address came from former Colts head coach and soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Fame member Tony Dungy. Dungy shared why Tamika is so special, continuing in the “one word” theme by portraying her as uncommon.
“I don’t think we could have ever imagined this,” Dungy said when asked about Catchings’ career. “You know you’re going to get a great player and a good person, but it was just a perfect storm of her coming at the right time and her personality and God-given talents. [Because of] her desire to make her city a better place to live, we’ve all benefitted.”
“As I said, if she had not played one second of basketball, Indianapolis would have been a better place by her being here.”
As thankful as everyone is to have Catchings in their lives, that’s how she felt about the event.
“It’s humbling,” she said. “Being here and having all the people here has been a truly amazing day.”
And as the 400 in attendance filed out, one word came to mind to describe why they came and why such an event was appropriate. That word was “deserving,” as Catchings more than earned the tribute she received today at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Mayor Hogsett and Mayor Ballard