Some are calling the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020 one of the best ever. Among the headliners announced Saturday is Tamika Catchings, one of the best women’s basketball small forwards ever — 10-time WNBA All-Star, seven-time All-WNBA first-team selection, five-time Defensive Player of the Year and 2011 WNBA MVP. She is also the league’s all-time steals leader.
“I am incredibly honored to be included in this year’s Naismith Hall of Fame, and God only knows the dreams I had as a little girl to be able to follow in my father’s footsteps,” Catchings told the WNBA, referring to her father Harvey, an 11-year NBA player. “I am so thankful to stand alongside so many amazing men and women that have come before me.”
She was named to the WNBA Top 20 Players in the leagues 20-year history in 2016. In her 14-year career she was a 10x All-Star, 4x Olympic gold medalist and all-time leaders in steals. We congratulate WNBA Champion Tamika Catchings. #20HoopClass pic.twitter.com/quUSIhz1lL
— Basketball HOF (@Hoophall) April 4, 2020
The Hall of Fame is a fitting ending to Catchings’ impressive career. Wherever she went, winning seemed to follow. She won an NCAA title in 1998 with legendary coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee, and in 2012, she won a WNBA championship with the Indiana Fever. She was named the Finals MVP.
However, perhaps the most enduring aspect of Catchings’ legacy will be her commitment to Team USA, as she helped the Americans win gold in each of the last four Olympics.
Catchings, who played for the Fever for her entire career from 2002 to 2016, is now the team’s vice president of basketball operations and general manager. Indiana selected her third overall in the 2001 WNBA Draft.
Despite Catchings’ immense basketball talent, she sometimes felt insecure as a child due to a speech impediment caused by hearing loss.
“Growing up I had a hearing problem. I had a speech problem. I had to wear glasses,” Catchings once told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “I really didn’t like to talk a lot because of my speech problem. People always found a way to make fun of me: the way I talked, the way I looked, my hearing aids being too big and my glasses. There was always something that stood out.”
She found solace on the basketball court, where she let her game do the talking. However, only months before the WNBA Draft while at Tennessee, Catchings seriously injured her ACL. With her basketball future suddenly uncertain, God revealed to Catchings that He is the only sure and solid foundation.
“Peace definitely came from God,” Catchings said. “It came from realizing I needed to remove my focus from basketball back to God. It seems like every single time I have been hurt it has been the same thing. It’s been that you get so caught up in what you are doing that you forget to give Him the glory.”
And despite all of her accomplishments in the WNBA and beyond, Catchings knows that her platform is one of many gifts from God, and one that she can leverage to share her faith.
“God is definitely my Savior,” she said. “He’s the one that walks beside me through my ups and downs and the one that keeps me focused on where I am going in life. He protects me. He provides for me. He guides me and He leads me.”
As an overflow of the love that God has shown her, Catchings has responded by doing what she can to love the people around her. She founded “Catch the Stars” in 2004, a foundation that provides an opportunity for inner-city kids to be positively reinforced through sports and education.
In addition to Catchings, the nine-member Hall of Fame Class of 2020 also includes Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich and Patrick Baumann. They will be inducted on August 29 in Springfield, Mass.
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