Each week leading up to the Olympic Games later this summer, we will introduce you to the WNBA players who will be representing their countries in Athens. From first-timers to veteran Olympians, the WNBA's best and brightest stars will be showcasing their skills on the world's biggest stage.

Tina Thompson, United States
By Matt Wurst, WNBA.com
The Basics

Country United States
Hometown Los Angeles, CA
WNBA Team Houston Comets
Position Forward
Height 6-2
Weight 178 lbs.
Birthday February 10, 1975
Olympic exp. None
When Comets forward Tina Thompson came into the WNBA as a rookie in 1997, she was one of the younger pioneers in a league filled with experienced international veterans. Eight seasons later, Thompson has become an experienced international veteran, one of the few remaining. But like Impressionist paintings and fine cheeses, Thompson has only gotten better with age.

Much like her close friend, fellow USC alum and great professional rival, Sparks center Lisa Leslie, Thompson has improved her game with each season. And despite assisting the Houston Comets to their four WNBA titles and seven straight postseason appearances as well as competing in all five of the WNBA All-Star Games, Thompson's value to the Comets may have never been greater. She led the Comets and the WNBA in scoring for the first month of the 2004 season while center Michelle Snow was out of the lineup. But when she, herself, went down with an injury, the Comets began to struggle and look mortal for the first time in franchise history.

A member of four USA Senior National teams since 1997, Thompson was a A 2000 U.S. Women's Olympic Team alternate. She was also selected to compete in the 1998 World Championship, but injured her knee during the USA's pre-World Championship training and was forced to withdraw. She was also selected for the 2002 USA World Championship Team, but again was sidelined by injury.

This past spring, she stepped onto the court in a USA Basketball uniform for the first time in five years, and stepped out in a major way. Along with Katie Smith, Thompson was the only other American to start all 13 games of the exhibition tour. She led the team in minutes per game and total minutes played, total points scored, rebounds and assists.

Thompson will be going to her first Olympics
(Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images)
Up close and Personal

What is your favorite Olympic sport other than basketball?
"Track and Field."

What does it mean to you to finally be an Olympian?
"Representing the United States is the high of all highs. At one time, it was all that we had, so it was the ultimate, and now, being able to play professionally and doing what we love to do for a living, and then to top it off with a gold medal representing your country and playing in the Olympics, it doesn't get any better than that. Sure, the WNBA plays my mortgage, but at that time and at that moment, we can be the best 10 - 12 players in the world. We are setting out to accomplish a goal not only for ourselves, but for our country, and that's pretty amazing."

Do you have a favorite Olympic memory when growing up?
"For me, my favorite memory was the first ever Dream Team in 1992. i thought those guys were awesome. Every single one of those guys, I could say, is my favorite player. Magic Johnson is my first and foremost favorite, but that team was so awesome. The personalities were a joy, the unselfishness because they all had greatness in their own right, but were able to come together and accomplish what they did. It was great."

Who is your all-time favorite Olympic athlete?
"Florence Griffith Joyner. Her runs were just awesome. She exemplified beauty in female athletes and she was very feminine, and then she tore it up. Just all the memories of her in the Olympics."

Are there any particular athletes you are looking forward to meeting?
"No one in particular."

What are you most looking forward to about Athens and the entire event?
"I just think it's an awesome opportunity to meet so many different athletes and different nationalities. For me, that's been the best part about competing with USA Basketball and traveling abroad. You see the sport in so many different ways, just the way they play and their approach to the game. Everywhere it's so different, and I think that's the most fascinating part. It's still the same game, but the approach and style of game, there's so may different types. I think that's the best part about it."

Are other countries catching up to the U.S. on the international stage?
"It's definitely getting a lot more competitive. If you watched the (2002) World Championships in men's basketball, or the qualifying tournament they were in here in the (United) States, the Yugoslavian team was unbelievable. They came out and played great and they won. A lot of those players played in the Olympics. So I think if you just look at it from a basketball perspective the number of international players that are now playing in the NBA as well as the WNBA, it's a picture of what's to come and what we may face in the Olympics."

With so many great teammates, how do different styles gel?
"I think it's just a matter of talent level and knowing the game. When you're a student of the game and you understand the game, it doesn't really matter what your individual approach (to the game) or style is. When you understand the game and you see things evolving and happening within the game, it's so much easier to adjust because you're basically thinking and seeing the same things. And although you don't play together on a consistent basis, the fact that you have a high level of understanding of the game, it's so easy to put players together of that talent level."

Game on Game
Sue Bird, U.S. teammate:
"One of the most versatile forwards in the game. Her ability to shoot makes her virtually unstoppable."

Lauren Jackson, Team Australia forward:
"She is one of the best post players in the league. Inside, she is very tough and is just a great all-around player."

Tamika Catchings, U.S. teammate:
"a great offensive player, can shoot from anywhere and create her own shots. She is so hard to defend because she is both so strong and so smart on the court."

Lisa Leslie, U.S. teammate:
"Aside from myself, I think she is the ultimate competitor. That is why we play so well together."

Yolanda Griffith, U.S. teammate:
"A workhorse."

Svetlana Abrosimova, Team Russia forward and Lynx teammate:
"She is strong and gets out and extends the defense, which makes her really hard to defend. She is tough to match up with."

DeLisha Milton-Jones, U.S. teammate:
"A bull in a china shop. She is fierce. She will go straight at you, and that is a compliment in every sense. She wreaks havoc on the other teams because she is so hard to defend."

Katie Smith, U.S. teammate:
"Tina is easygoing, but a hard worker. She's played very well for us because she is so versatile and brings so much to the table. She is a needed threat on our team."

USA Basketball Statistics
2004 WNT
1999 WNT
5/ 5
12- 37
4- 13
2- 4
1998 WCP
7/ 1
16- 39
3- 7
8- 11
1998 WNT
5/ 0
16- 44
1- 14
8- 10
1997 WNT
4/ 2
12- 26
0- 4
14- 16
1996 JC
9/ 2
30- 66
6- 18
22- 33
1995 WUG
7/ 0
21- 38
0- 1
27- 35

Katie Smith, USA
Lauren Jackson, Australia
Lisa Leslie, USA
Tamika Catchings, USA
Swin Cash, USA

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