INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Sitting in the stands of Bankers Life Fieldhouse Thursday, Tamika Catchings reflected on the career she dreamed about since 7th grade.
“My ultimate overall goal was to be a professional basketball player,” she said.
She became one when the Indiana Fever picked her in the first round of the 2001 draft. It was the moment, she says, when she knew she had made it.
“I tore my ACL my senior year in college, and really everything was just up in the air. Like, who’s gonna want me? Nobody’s gonna want me. I’m hurt and nobody wants to bring a hurt player to the organization to help a team. But Indy took a chance on me and at that point it’s just like since 7th grade, I had dreamed about being a professional basketball player and when I heard my name at first I didn’t hear it, cause I was like ‘Is that me? Did they say my name? They said my name?’ And then I jumped up, like ‘That’s my name!’ But that’s the moment that I knew, okay here we go,” she said.
She didn’t know much about where she was going.
“Coming to Indy, getting drafted, and put the mic in front of my face and said ‘What do you know about Indiana?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely nothing.’
But it didn’t take long for her to establish herself on the court, and off.
“Coming here, and literally having two choices, one to be mad that I’m hurt, I’m in a totally new city, I know nobody, my sister and I moved up here. So I could be mad, come to the gym, come to practice and go home and do nothing. Or I could get here and I could do what I have to do off the court, ya know or on the court as far as rehab and all of that stuff, but then I could get out and get in the community,” she said.
She was named Rookie of the Year and in 2004, created the Catch the Stars Foundation, empowering kids to reach their dreams by promoting fitness, literacy and development.
“I really don’t take it lightly, being a role model and being somebody positive for these young girls and boys to be able to look up to,” she said.
Her list of accomplishments only grew from there, but her favorite came in 2012, when the Indiana Fever won the WNBA Championship.
“I just remember throwing the ball up after the buzzer went off and just kind of a relief. Like from the beginning from 2011 when I got drafted, this has been the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal and then in 2009 we get that close, and it’s just like gosh, we never gonna get it,” she said.
“As a team, everyone was like you know what, we don’t have anything to lose we’re just gonna go out there and give everything we have and we’ll see what happens, and we saw what happens.”
Four years after that and fifteen years after arriving in Indiana, she doesn’t know what’s next.
“I don’t know what’s next, but I’m excited about that. I’m excited about not knowing and knowing that God has a special plan for me. Right off the bat I know I’m going to go on a honeymoon, I’m going to relax for a little bit, let my body heal, do foundation events, speaking engagements, outside of that, like I don’t know, but I’m not in a rush to find out,” she said.
As she finishes the career her 7th grade self would sure be proud of.
“I want to be remembered as somebody that was super passionate about everything that she did, and that’s both on and off the court, the love that I play with on the court and just, it’s just a blessing to be able to do what you love to do and for so long.”