Thompson Continues to Stand Out
UNCASVILLE, Conn -- There’s a certain measure of symmetry in place.
With the WNBA’s next big thing, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft Brittney Griner forced to sit out of the 2013 Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star Game due to an injury, it was the WNBA’s first big thing, the first ever WNBA draftee, Tina Thompson, who was chosen to replace her.
Thompson, who says she will retire at season’s end, has a resume that speaks for itself. She is the league’s all-time leader in points and minutes played. She was a member of the Houston Comets teams that won the first four WNBA titles (1997-2000) and she is the only player to take the court in every WNBA season.
What may be most incredible, however, is that Thompson, voted one of the WNBA’s Top 15 players of all time, never envisioned this kind of basketball career.
“I didn’t think I’d be here at all,” Thompson said. “My plan was just to play a few seasons, stack up a little cash so I could pay for law school and avoid student loans. So being here 17 years later is amazing. It’s a blessing, and it’s something I never could have predicted.”
Now, as one of the league’s elder statesmen, many of the league’s younger players – the 2013 Boost Mobile All-Star Game actually features nine first time All-Stars – tell Thompson that they were once fans of her. When asked how often that comes up, Thompson laughed and said “too many.”
“That was another reason why I was like dude it is time for me to roll out,” Thompson joked. “Too many of these kids are like, ‘oh, I used to watch you when I was younger.’ So it’s cool to know that I influenced them, but it’s bittersweet.”
If one thing is clear, the respect that Thompson has from her peers is unwavering.
“Tina exemplifies everything you want in a WNBA player,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said.
“Tina’s meant a lot to the game,” Indiana’s Shavonte Zellous said. “She started it when – I’m not going to put her age out there – but a long time ago. Kids like me and others looked up to her and the Cynthia Coopers and the Sheryl Swoopes, so for it to be her last time around we’re just going to try to make it fun for her.”
Even grizzled veterans like Tamika Catchings, one of the most decorated women’s basketball players in history in her own right, can say that Thompson has meant something to her.
“She’s been awesome for me,” Catchings said. “I just think the relationship that we built has been great. She’s become my mentor, my big sister, my everything as far as just always being so supportive and inspiring.”
With this being Thompson’s ninth and final All-Star Game, many fans and players, past and current, will be reflective, thinking about the legacy of one of the game’s true icons. One person that will not be thinking about her legacy, however, is Thompson herself.
“I don’t really think in those terms,” Thompson said. “When someone says legacy I think like an older person. I mean I’m probably a little old to be playing basketball, but I don’t consider myself old. I hope that people know that I’ve respected this game totally and that I’ve loved it and played it without any regrets. So if that’s what people remember about me I’m cool with that.”