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Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings: 'Basketball chose me, but God had even bigger plans'

One of the most touching moments from Saturday night’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020 induction ceremony (delayed a year due to the pandemic) was provided by Hall of Fame inductee and WNBA legend Tamika Catchings.

“Basketball chose me, an awkward, lanky, introverted tomboy born with a hearing disability, a speech impediment, and a will to overcome obstacles, dream big and to change the world,” Catchings said during her speech.

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Immediately after, the four-time Olympic gold medalist and 2012 WNBA champion praised God for the journey that led her to be standing on that stage at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

“Basketball chose me, but God had even bigger plans for me. I never dreamed of being a Hall of Famer,” she said.

Basketball provided an escape from the hearing disability and speech impediment Catchings referenced, and her talent was evident early on. She produced the first quintuple-double in recorded basketball history as a high schooler.

Catchings then went to the University of Tennessee, where she averaged 18.2 points on an undefeated national championship team as a freshman (1997-98) and earned multiple player of the year honors as a junior. A torn ACL cut her senior season short and brought an increased level of uncertainty regarding the WNBA draft.

The experience taught her to lean on God and reminded her what her ultimate purpose is.

“Peace definitely came from God,” Catchings told Christian Broadcasting Network. “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.”

She was taken third overall by the Indiana Fever in 2001 and has been with the organization ever since. Her 16-year career included a WNBA MVP in 2011, a WNBA Finals MVP in 2012, 10 All-Star selections and five Defensive Player of the Year awards in an eight-year stretch after missing her rookie season while recovering from the ACL injury.

Catchings ranks third all-time in the WNBA in points (7,380) and rebounds (3,316), and her 1,074 career steals are the most in WNBA history by a wide margin (310 to be exact).

Now the Fever’s general manager, Catchings plays an active role in the Indianapolis community. She started the Catch the Stars Foundation in 2004 with the goal of empowering youth through fitness, literacy and character development. The foundation donated more than $104,000 in scholarships to student-athletes in central Indiana in 2019.

Catchings was one of nine members in the Hall of Fame Class of 2020. Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton, Rudy Tomjanovich and Patrick Baumann were honored alongside Catchings.

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