Tina Thompson Says Farewell

It’s been 17 years. 17 years filled with WNBA Championships, gold medals and broken records. 17 years in a career that was never imaginable before 1997. And 541 games later, it all comes to an end—but the history will never be forgotten.

Tina Thompson was the first player to ever be drafted into the WNBA in the inaugural draft on April 28, 1997 (by the Houston Comets). Thompson, who was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection at USC and led her team to three NCAA Tournaments and an Elite Eight appearance, had been planning on going to law school until she got a call from the WNBA and found a new career path.

“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.”

In her 17 seasons with the league, Thompson has racked up the numbers. She holds the league record for points scored (8,074) and minutes played (17,669) and is the only player to compete in all 17 WNBA seasons. She is an MVP (2000), a nine-time All-Star, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a four-time WNBA Champion. She was also honored as a member of the league’s All-Decade Team in 2006 and was named to the WNBA’s Top-15 Players of All-Time list in 2011.

[Photo Gallery: Tina Thompson Career Highlights]

And in her 17th season, she absolutely dominated.

During the regular-season, she averaged 14.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. She was just under her career averages of 15.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and above her 4.4 average assists per game. And in her last season, she found herself in the playoffs once again. While the Storm was eliminated by the Lynx in the Western Conference Semifinals, Thompson was determined to fight until the very end. Late in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the series, Thompson put in a layup with 1:20 left to give the Storm its first lead since late in the second quarter—almost extending her career one more game.

Thompson’s head coach over the past three seasons, Brian Agler, was inspired by what the 38-year-old All-Star was able to do in her final season.

[What Others Are Saying About Thompson's Legacy]

“She takes a lot of pride in how she is as a professional. And I know that she’s one of the elite competitors in our league. So it doesn’t surprise me that she’s going out in a strong manner because she takes so much pride in herself and the team that she plays on...But I still sit there in awe, like a lot of people do, and see what she’s doing at her age and just am amazed and impressed and just appreciative of what she’s done not only for our team this year but what she’s done for the league.”

For Thompson, she’s just doing her job.

“I’m just basically doing whatever I can to help our team win games…I just do whatever I have to do in order to fill our team’s needs.”

Not only was Agler awed by her play, but he also enjoyed seeing the impact she had on her teammates and the younger players in the league.

“That’s what’s really impressed me this season is just her impact off the floor and her leadership abilities.

“She does such a good job with all of our players. And I think they sort of look to her because of her resume and the respect they have for her. Even the ones that have been on our team and won championships, like Tanisha [Wright] and Camille [Little]. They still look at Tina and in a lot of ways she helps them a great deal to be better leaders themselves.”

While Thompson has become a leader and a role model for many young basketball players, she never thought that she would play this kind of role.

“I don’t play the game for recognition or something like that, I play because I absolutely love it and it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for most of my life. I think it’s cool because I go out and work really hard and because I love and respect the game so much that I’m able to be a role model and I’m able to do the things that I’ve been able to do for such a long time, but it’s not necessarily my motivation.”

[Related: Storm Overcome Adversity to Clinch Playoff Spot]

Now that her 17-year career has come to an end and her life quiets down, she has time to focus on what is most important to her—her son Dyllan.

“Initially, I don’t plan to do anything. I just plan to rest. Basketball has been my focus for such a long time. To play at this level for such a long time consistently is physically grueling. So my main focus is just to relax and just rest and focus on my son. He’s always my main priority, you know, now we’re in this position for me to just spend a lot more personal time with him, although he’s with me all the time, it’s different now, the scheduling and everything is different. His schedule is the priority and I’m looking forward to that.”

While she is putting an end to her career, she will always keep the special memories with her.

“Probably my most favorite [memory] is our third season—our third championship—we dedicated it to my late teammate Kim Perrot. It was a tough season for us, very emotionally grueling. But the meaning of the season and us being able to overcome so many emotional trials, for me, it told the character and the fight in our team, but it was special because we played for and we did it all for Kim.”

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