Entering A League Of Her Own

By Marissa Johnson | June 16, 2012

She only needed six. She made six. With 1,478 career free-throws Tamika Catchings has passed Lisa Leslie as the all-time WNBA leader in free-throws.

She is now the league’s all-time leader in both free-throws made and steals.

Without a doubt the 2011 MVP is one of the best to ever play the game and continues to solidify that statement every time she steps on the court. But through it all she stays as humble as ever. After Saturday’s 84-70 win over the Chicago Sky, Catchings was unaware she had passed Leslie. Upon hearing of her latest achievement, she calmly put the game ahead of her own achievement.

“Wow. I really don’t know what to say,” said Catchings. “I think more than anything, it’s just great to get a W.”

As she climbs the record books, it is becoming obvious that Catchings is in a league of her own. Her name is at the top of almost every WNBA career stats category including: free throws (1st, 1,478), steals (1st, 781), points (5,332, 6th), rebounds (2,422, 5th), assists (1,159, 9th), 3-point field goals (470, 8th), and blocks (283, 14th).

Let’s put it in further perspective. She is breaking all-time records during what is now just her 11th active season. She ranks 13th all-time in minutes played. She has appeared in 321 WNBA games, compared to more than 400 by all-time greats Tina Thompson, Katie Smith, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Tangela Smith, DeLisha Milton-Jones, Ticha Penicheiro and Vickie Johnson. Lisa Leslie (363 games) and Becky Hammon (391) each has played at least another season’s worth of games more than Catchings.

Catchings’ numbers continue to mount, despite the humble unawareness. Her real prize remains a WNBA title.

“You don’t try to rack up awards and be the all-time great. Yeah they’re pretty cool, but records are meant to be broken,” Catchings said. “We’re celebrating mine now and a couple years from we’ll be celebrating someone breaking it.

“But while I have it, I guess I can celebrate,” she added with a laugh.

Catchings is the only player in WNBA history to rank in the league’s top 10 in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots in the same season. And she has done it twice. It is obvious that she does not play the game for the records and awards.

Trying to keep her career in perspective, she was reminded of first goal, just making it to professional basketball.

“It really is funny to me because I made a goal in seventh grade, pushed through, and here I am.”

Rising past the league’s all-time greats on the eve of Father’s Day, Catchings reflected on the influence of her father, former NBA star Harvey Catchings. He played for the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, and finished his career with the Los Angeles Clippers. For some people this might add pressure to be great, but for Tamika, her dad is just part of her support system and one of her biggest fans.

“My dad is definitely proud of me,” Catchings said. “He always sends me little notes to just let me know how proud he is and to say the simple fact of who would have ever thought this is where I would be.”

For now, with regard to WNBA milestones, it seems as if Catchings is in a race against herself.