Catchings: An all-around MVP

By Tom Rietmann | September 22, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Tamika Catchings was announced as the WNBA's 2011 Most Valuable Player on Thursday, it was a victory for unremitting effort and all-around skills. It was a victory for fervor and floor burns. Most of all, it represented a triumph for players who put their team above all else.

And that's what most pleased the Indiana Fever forward.

“That is probably the biggest statement right there … being able to change how people look at the MVP,” Catchings said. “(It's) not necessarily looking at the player who scores the most points in the league. It's the player who makes the biggest overall impact for their team. I think that's probably the thing I've done year after year after year. … Hopefully it does set a trend.”

Catchings is the first league MVP for the Fever or the NBA Pacers. She averaged 15.5 points in 2011, one of the lower scoring averages of her 10-year career. But she also averaged 7.1 rebounds, 2.03 steals and 3.5 assists and led her team to the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.

She became the first player in league history with 5,000 career points, 2,000 career rebounds and 1,000 career assists. And she ranks No. 1 all-time in steals with 775.

Media members voting for the MVP noticed. Maybe, too, they considered Catchings' body of work over the last decade. Five times she has finished in the top three in MVP balloting. Three times she has finished second, including each of the past two years.

Kelly Krauskopf, the Fever's chief operating officer and general manager, got a call from WNBA President Laurel  Richie informing her of Catchings' honor. Krauskopf was a main player in the selection of Catchings at No. 3 overall in the 2001 draft. Krauskopf has watched Catchings mature as an athlete and become the face of the franchise within the Indianapolis community.

“I just got big tears in my eyes,” Krauskopf said about hearing of Catchings' award. “I was so happy and thrilled for Tamika.

“It's not just about scoring. It's the way she affects a game, how she affects the outcome and all the winning seasons we've had. … I never gave up hope that at some point the media and the folks who voted on this would see the effect she has.”

Catchings' first calls after she heard about the honor went to her family and her shooting coach, Marvin Harvey. She also informed her teammates but wanted them to know that the award rates a distant second to winning as Indiana continues its playoff push in the conference finals.

“I don't want us to get sidetracked on me winning the MVP,” Catchings said. “I don't want me to get sidetracked. I think if anything, it needs to give us more fire, more fight, more desire to go and finish what we want to do.”

Finishing what the Fever team wants means winning the WNBA championship in a few weeks.

“At the end of this year, what I want to be most proud of is having that championship trophy sitting in our locker room,” Catchings said. “I'll be around, coming in and out, seeing that and holding it up and hugging it.”

In Indianapolis, Catchings has been the MVP for a number of years already. No major athlete is more involved in the community. Nobody signs more autographs, sends more emails to fans or speaks to more kids' groups. Indeed, nobody represents a franchise better.

“I think that's what makes it such an emotional thing,” Krauskopf said. “It's why I felt the emotion I did. I know what kind of person she is, what kind of heart she has and what she does that resonates throughout the community. It's things you don't see in a box score.”

Said Catchings: “That's probably the most special thing about winning the MVP -- knowing how people (in Indianapolis) will respond to it. Everybody wanted it for me. People are going to be so happy.”