Born: July 21, 1979
Tamika Devonne Catchings was born July 21, 1979 in Stratford to Wanda and Harvey Catchings. Tamika was one of three kids. Harvey was an NBA center who had just completed a season with the New Jersey Nets. He would go on to finish his career with the Milwaukee Bucks. The family settled in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield after his playing days, and Harvey tutored Tamika on the finer points of basketball throughout her childhood. The game was an escape for her from the frustrations of the partial deafness she’d been born with.
Tamika grew to 6'1" and had a game that blended aggressiveness with creativity. Her sister, Tauja, was also a fine player. They teamed up in 1995 to lead Stephenson High School to the state championship, and Tamika was named Ms. Basketball for Illinois as a sophomore.
Unfortunately, things were not going as well at home. Wanda and harvey decided to divorce. Tamika moved to suburban Dallas with the mom while her sister and brother stayed in Chicago with their dad. Tamika finished her prep career at Duncanville High School. As a senior, she led the Panthers to the state championship in 1997 and was named the Naismith National Player of the Year. She recorded a super-rare quintuple-double that season, reaching double-figures in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocked shots. As a junior, Tamika also was a member of Duncanville’s state championship volleyball team.
Among the 100-plus school’s recruiting Tamika was the University of Tennessee. Pat Summitt’s Lady Vols were a women’s basketball powerhouse, with five national championships to their credit. Tamika set a school record for freshman with an 18.2 points per game average. Tennessee won the national title, beating Louisiana Tech in the NCAA Final. Tamika led the team with 27 points. She was named Freshman of the Year and honored as a Kodak All-American. She would be a Kodak All-American in each of the next three seasons. Tamika blossomed under Summitt’s coaching. As a junior, she was named Player of the Year. She probably would have repeated as a senior, but a torn ACL ended her season early.
Tamika was the third player picked in the 2001 WNBA Draft, by the Indiana Fever. Her knee did not heal in time to play that summer, but in 2002 she was an absolute terror. Tamika dominated almost every game she played, and finished the year among the leaders in scoring average, rebounding and steals. She topped all players in points and minutes played. Tamika was an easy pick for Rookie of the Year and was a close second as Defensive Player of the Year, and third in the voting for WNBA MVP. At the 2002 World Championships in China, Tamika led Team USA to a gold medal, saving the day with a great performance in the finals against Russia.
Over the next 10 seasons, Tamika was arguably the best all-around player in the WNBA. She was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010. She was First-Team All-WNBA in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011. She was in the Top 10 in scoring, rebounding and steals almost every season. And in 2011, Tamika won the WNBA’s MVP Award. That season, she led the Fever to first place in the Eastern Conference for the second time in three years and led the club in minutes, points, assists, rebounds and steals. In 2009, the Fever were one victory away from the WNBA title, but were beaten by the Phoenix Mercury. During this time, Tamika also starred for Team USA in the Olympics. She helped the American women win gold medals in 2004 and 2008.
At age 34, when most athletes are slowing down, Tamika had a season for the ages. She won her third Olympic gold as Team USA defeated France in the finals 86–50. Tamika was a defensive force throughout the competition. Returning to the states for the WNBA season, Tamika led the Fever to a second-place finish in the East. Indiana beat Atlanta and Connecticut to reach the WNBA Finals. In both series, she led her team to victory in a pair of must-win games, as the Fever faced elimination in four of the six contests they played. In the finals against the Minnesota Lynx, Tamika took charge in a 3 games to 1 series win. She scored 28 points and had a team-high 8 assists in the finale, which the Fever won 87–78. Tamika was named WNBA Finals MVP as she finally won the one championship that had eluded her.
In 2013 and 2015, the Fever slumped to identical 16–18 records, but reached the conference finals both years. Tamika's 10 straight playoff appearances established a new WNBA record, During the 2014 postseason, she surpassed Lisa Leslie as the league's all-time playoff scorer and rebounde. Tamika's regular-season numbers remained consistent through 2014, until she missed half the year with a back injury. Her return to health in 2015 was a major reason why the Fever made irt back to the WNBA Finals, this time facing the Minnesota Lynx. The Fever pushed the Lynx to the full five games, but defensive star Sylvia Fowles proved the difference-maker as Indiana lost 3 games to 2.
Tamika announced that the 2016 season would be her last in the WNBA. The Fever have planned a farewell tour a la her old buddy Kobe Bryant, but the real focus of Tamika's summer will be her fourth Olympic Games, in Rio, as the elder statesman of Team USA.