As the WNBA’s monumental 20th season reaches its midway point, it means the league is just a few months from saying goodbye to one of its most decorated talents. At the end of the 2016 season, Tamika Catchings will officially tie a bow on what has been one of the most successful careers the WNBA has ever seen.
Catch has played 15 seasons in the league all with the Indiana Fever. In her decade and a half on the floor, she’s been named to 10 All-Star teams and seven All-WNBA First Teams. Individually, she’s been named WNBA Defensive Player of the Year a record five teams, led the league a record seven times in steals, and was 2011 WNBA MVP. She also added a championship trophy to her already full mantle of accolades in 2012.
But now as Catching finds herself in the midst of her own Kobe-esque swansong tour, she’s been offering an inside prospective about what’s on her mind throughout different points in her final season. This time around Tamika discusses what may be behind the Sparks’ remarkable 16-1 start to the season, her fourth shot at Olympic gold and the maturation of Tina Charles’ game.
What’s the catalyst behind the Sparks great start to the season?
“You see them having fun. I think having fun and trusting one and other is what it is. Having played on teams like that, I knew that on defense if I got beat my teammate was going to have my back. On offense if I drove and went to kick I didn’t even have to look I knew that my teammate was going to be there and be open to shoot.
I feel like everyone on their team is playing at such a high level and playing unselfish basketball. Everybody moves the ball and has their time to shine. It starts with a vet like Candace, and how she sets the tone with her unselfishness. Then of course you have Nneka, she’s playing unbelievable. She’s able to pretty much do anything, it’s so fun watching her, and then of course you have Toliver knocking down shots.
Everybody right now is playing their role and playing to the best of their ability and knowing what they have to bring to the table every night if they want their team to win. They’re all willing to sacrifice for the team rather than me, me, me it’s us, us, us.
What are you emotions heading into your fourth Olympic go-ahead?
It’s awesome, and yes I still get butterflies, and yes I still love the opportunity. It’s still very surreal. As soon as you step foot abroad and get to the games your mentality shifts. Leading up to the games we’re traveling a lot, you know you’re excited about being a part of the team but then once you get there it finally sets in and is real. It’s not about the butterflies or being excited about being on the team, it’s about playing and performing. You got to make sure you’re keeping your body ready to go.
What’s the most unique experience at the Games?
The opening ceremony for sure. Being in the Olympic village and preparing to go walk in the ceremony is like a magical thing. You have the best of the best from every country in the world and we’re all thrown into a bubble.
The big thing is being able to trade pins with athletes from different countries and being able to trade gear. Everybody is going from place to place trying to collect the most pins and the most unique ones from different countries. It’s almost like being a kid again at a candy store. You’re really like a part of it, not someone on the outside looking in. You’re part of the family.
Tina Charles is expanding her game at a late age much like you did, what goes into that kind of transformation?
The one thing with Tina and with anyone is that every year you have to bring something different. Everyone was preparing for the Tina from last year but this year she’s brought so many different elements to her game. I’ve talked to countless people about this, it’s so hard to be an MVP, to get any of the accolades in this league. But it’s even harder to stay on that level. How do you stay on an MVP level, how do you stay on an All-Star level, how do you go from most improved to being even better the next year.
Tina is prime example of somebody that is willing to put the time in and get better and better in the offseason.