Indiana Fever legend Tamika Catchings will play in her final regular season game on Sunday against the Dallas Wings. Reality is starting to set in for the 15-year veteran who is the league’s all-time leader in rebounds and second-leader in points.
“At the beginning [of the season] you really don’t think about it,” Catchings told SB Nation. “Because you’re like, ‘oh well the season is so long, you have the Olympics and all this before you get to the end.’ And now it’s just like, wow. It’s after the Olympics and playoffs are right around the corner.”
In Rio, Catchings won gold, and as a gold medal was bestowed upon her for the fourth time in her career, her last Olympic memories were playing out. Her career was nearing its grand finale and she was starting to realize it.
“A lot hit me standing on the podium,” said Catchings. “It’s just one step closer to the end. It’s the last time representing my country as a player. My last time with the Fever. My last regular season. So many last times.”
Crazy to think just 4 years ago I was presenting @bre_stewart30 with the @Gatorade Player of the Year award before her trek to UCONN. Now, she's consoling me on one of the biggest stages of our lives- her 1st and my last Olympics... So proud to be a part of ur journey Stewie! #TheBestIsYetToCome #OperationGoldCompleted #PassingTheTorch #Inspire #SoBlessed @usabasketball @teamusa @wnba
Catchings’ Fever team clinched its 12th consecutive playoff berth with an 80-73 win over the Washington Mystics in D.C. last Sunday. It was the second-to-last goodbye she’d get from an away crowd on the jumbotron and the second to last stop on her “Legacy Tour.” In all 12 WNBA teams’ cities this season she’s signed autographs for fans and auctioned game-worn memorabilia to raise money for her Catch the Stars foundation. The foundation aims to help young people reach their goals in literacy, fitness and mentoring. The legacy tour hopes to add programming into the 11 other WNBA markets.
“Putting everything into perspective is just like, golly,” said Catchings. “You go to these cities and it’s rewarding because I’m able to spend time with other fans from other cities. It’s been amazing.”
She’s already brought the tour back home to Indiana after the Olympics, and Sunday’s game will be more about her — though there still are playoff seeding implications riding on the result. To stack the crowd, Indiana Pacers star Paul George bought 5,000 tickets to help fill out Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
George, an admirer of Catchings before he put on a Pacer jersey, credits her for being the reason he switched his number from No. 24 to 13.
“All careers come to an end at some point,” said Catchings. “I’ve been blessed to be able to come and write my story a little bit. Not have to go out on somebody else’s terms or being hurt. My body doesn’t feel the same. I don’t play the same. But being able to be around is awesome.”