By Wheat Hotchkiss | December 16, 2013
Height: 6-1 Position: Forward Age: 34 Years Pro: 12 College: Tennessee Key Stats: Led Fever in scoring, steals, and blocks. Was second on the team in rebounds and assists. Averaged 17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.8 steals per game in the regular season. Averaged 18.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in the postseason.
What can be said about Tamika Catchings that hasn’t already been repeated a thousand times over? How do you find new ways to praise someone who has accomplished almost every achievement and garnered nearly every accolade?
2013 was simply the latest chapter in Catchings’ storied WNBA career, and it didn’t disappoint. Once again, the unquestioned face of the Fever franchise led Indiana and ranked among the league leaders in virtually every major category.
PHOTO GALLERY: Tamika Catchings Season Gallery »
The numbers speak for themselves.
Catchings led the Fever and ranked seventh in the WNBA in points per game. She scored in double figures in 32 of 34 games between the regular season and the playoffs. As the Fever dealt with an unprecedented rash of injuries, the former Tennessee star picked up the slack. Her 17.7 points per game average was her second highest in the last decade.
While she lit up the nets, the five-time Defensive Player of the Year continued to be a menace on the other end. Catchings once again led Indiana in blocks and steals. She tied for ninth in the league in blocks per game, and her 2.8 steals per contest led the entire WNBA.
Those facts alone were enough for Catchings to earn her eighth All-Star selection and her ninth consecutive appearance on the All-Defensive First Team. We haven’t even mentioned her rebounding or her passing (she ranked second on the Fever in both boards and assists), or the fact that she did all this while celebrating her 34th birthday in July.
Catchings’ consistency is remarkable. To achieve greatness is one thing, but to sustain greatness over so many years? That’s the difference between a star and a legend.
Tamika Catchings won her first MVP in 2011 and her first WNBA title in 2012, but in many ways, 2013 was her finest year. The aforementioned slew of injuries forced Indiana’s entire roster to adapt. Catchings led the way, despite dealing with nagging aches and pains herself for much of the season.
With a depleted roster, the Fever fell to 1-5 to start the season and Catchings strained her lower back, causing her to watch from the sidelines as her team lost two more games to fall to 1-7.
Catchings returned to the court on June 28. Fittingly, the game that turned the Fever’s season around was also its star’s best performance. Catchings’ stat line that night against the Tulsa Shock was the basketball equivalent of the score of a virtuoso composer: 28 points. Six steals. Five rebounds. Four blocks. Three assists. Zero turnovers.
The Fever would win six of their next seven games, and nine of 12. Catchings continued to lead the way. She scored 22 points and tied her season-high with six steals in a July 6 win over Connecticut. She flirted with a triple-double on July 21 in Washington, finishing with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Conversely, when Catchings missed a game at Connecticut on Aug. 1 because of family reasons, the Fever lost (one of many testaments to her value: Indiana went 0-4 in 2013 in games that Catchings missed).
Like her team, Catchings finished the year strong. She posted double-doubles in four of her last seven regular season games. She had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the series-clinching win over the Chicago Sky in the first round of the playoffs.
And while her teammates struggled in the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta, Catchings was her usual brilliant self, averaging 22.5 points and 6.5 rebounds on 48 percent shooting. When the Dream eliminated Indiana by holding them to a season-low 53 points in Game 2, Catchings was the lone bright spot. She scored 24 points – the only Fever player who reached double figures.
Looking ahead, Catchings is showing no signs of slowing down. She’ll turn 35 this summer, but she remains the team’s best player. She signed a multi-year extension with Indiana in February, and will likely remain on the roster as long as she wants to keep playing.
Already the WNBA’s all-time leader in career steals and free throws made, and in the top 10 in virtually every major statistical category, Catchings can continue to move up the ranks.
She currently ranks third in career points with 6,296, trailing only Katie Smith and Tina Thompson, both of whom just retired. Barring injury, Catchings should pass Smith this year and could reach Thompson late in 2015, though she herself is being chased by Diana Taurasi (currently 110 points behind Catchings).
Catchings could also be the WNBA’s all-time leader in rebounds. Her 2,838 boards currently place her fourth on the career charts, almost 400 rebounds ahead of DeLisha Milton-Jones. At her current pace, Catchings would pass Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Thompson in 2014, then catch Lisa Leslie in late 2015 or early 2016.
No matter where her final numbers end up, there is no doubt that Tamika Catchings is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. And 2013 may just have been her best season yet.
FeverBasketball.com is doing Player Reviews for each player on the 2013 Indiana Fever. Check out other stories from this series:
Player Review 2013: Shavonte Zellous Player Review 2013: Erlana Larkins Player Review 2013: Layshia Clarendon Player Review 2013: Karima Christmas Player Review 2013: Jasmine Hassell Player Review 2013: Erin Phillips Player Review 2013: Briann January Player Review 2013: Katie Douglas Player Review 2013: Jeanette Pohlen