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July 25, 2015

Tamika Catchings


TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  One thing that I told one of our All‑Stars is it doesn't matter whether you get voted in by the fans, you get voted in by the coaches, you get voted in through injury, once you're an All‑Star, you're an All‑Star.
I think when you come out here and look at this game today and just how it was played, one thing I always tell them is, look, when we come out here we play hard, both sides.  We need to make sure that our product and what we put on the court is something that people no matter if they've watched us before or never watched us, they're excited to come back and see the WNBA and the players that played today.

Q.  It's weird asking questions because you're still playing next year.  But being the veteran of this league and seeing so much young talent out there, I mean, Brittney, and Elena and Maya, and how it is playing here, just talk about how this league is in pretty good hands in the future with what's out there talent‑wise?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  Yeah, I think you see it.  You see it every game that's been played and the All‑Star Game, and even the ones that haven't had an opportunity to be here.  But I'm excited just for the future.  This game, everybody talked about kind of passing on that torch.  From the beginning for us it was Dawn and Cheryl that passed the torch on to us and before that in between we had Katie and Tina Thompson, then it came to us.  And at the end of our group is Cappie.  And then you go into the Candace Parkers, and then you go into the Elena Delle Donnes and Maya and Skylars and that group.
But I think that we've progressed.  We've come a long way from the beginning.  Not to say that obviously the beginning was a big deal for us.  That '96 Olympic team rolling into the beginning of the WNBA was huge.  But we progressed and look at the future, today is an example of how good the WNBA will continue to be, and these players are aspiring.  There are a lot of players and lot of girls here today that are aspiring to have an opportunity to play in the WNBA.  This is the reason why, to have an opportunity to play in the WNBA, to have an opportunity to be an All‑Star, to have an opportunity one day to represent your country.

Q.  Two parts to this.  We talked about defense going in.  It seemed like your defense really sparked things when you came in midway through the third.  Was that your mind as something you wanted to do at that point?  Then just bigger picture, I'm wondering if there was a moment that you'll take away from this?  A moment that really signified this moment for you, being your final All‑Star Game that you'll be playing in?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  The moment‑‑ I'll start with the first part‑‑ the moment that signified that had the most significance this weekend is just really when we had our players meeting.  At one point Renee asked all the first timers to stand up, and literally I felt like we were a minority.  Everybody's standing up, and I'm like, oh, my gosh.  I've been here that long.
But that was huge because it says a lot.  Like I said, through injuries or whatever, the players get voted onto the All‑Star team, you're an All‑Star, and nobody can ever take that away from you.  That was a big moment for me.  This is my last time, but I'm sharing it with so many first timers.  They sang Happy Birthday to me too for my birthday, so that was kind of cool.
Then the defense part.  Really just wanted to come out, and I think that's what I am.  I'm a smart player, and I kind of fit in what I get in, whatever my team needs at that point in time I do.
I looked at the scoreboard before I went out.  Like okay, before I sit down we'll at least be tied, and we were tied and she took me out.  But it was cool.
I think that it's a great opportunity, like I said.  There are so many first timers.  To be able to let everybody have an experience out there and not just sitting on the bench so we can win a game, it's bigger than that.

Q.  Alex Bentley was up here.  She was an Indiana kid who grew up watching you.  She talked about being your last game is kind of emotional.  Do you sense out there to the other players that this is a big deal that they're here with you on your last All‑Star Game?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  Yeah, yeah.  It's cool.  Like Alex was an intern with us a few years back, before she got drafted into the W.  She had grown.  I just remember when she was interning and I was in the cold tub.  She came in and said Catch, I just hope one day I make the WNBA.  I hope I'm good enough.  And I said, look, you just got to keep working hard.  Work with Coach at Penn State.  I know she'll have you ready and she'll keep working and push you to be better, you just have to be able to take it.
So here she is three years later as an All‑Star.  Not only as an All‑Star.  I don't know what she ended up scoring today, 20 points, something like that?  23 points her first All‑Star.  She's an awesome player.
But for all of them.  You could tell every single moment they could hug me or touch me, it was just kind of surreal.  That surreal moment like this is it.  Like, look, I'm not leaving yet.  I'll be back next year.  Just won't be an All‑Star Game.  But this is an opportunity for me to be able to play with players that I may not get an opportunity to play with and for them to play with me.

Q.  Going to the other end of the spectrum, you mentioned the '96 team, kind of a trailblazer.  There was no WNBA.  Do you just remember when you were watching them play what you thought the future would be?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  Wow.  Well, I didn't know at that point what my future would be.  But I remember watching the '96 Olympic team.  That was the first time I really watched women play basketball.  I just remember like, oh, my gosh, this would be‑‑ what an amazing opportunity if I could play and represent my country, and that was besides the WNBA.
Then the WNBA comes around and you guys know my story.  I wanted to be in the NBA like from 7th grade on.  I was going to be in the NBA, and I was determined, and I was going to play with the guys and nobody could tell me no.  When the W came, my goals switched and I wanted to be in the WNBA.
So looking at it from the beginning, everybody talked about these players.  You saw Dawn and you saw Cheryl, and you saw Rebecca Lobo.  You saw them everywhere, and I just remember saying I want to be like that one day.  I want to be where they are.
I want to be remembered like they'll be remembered.  And so now you fast forward, and I will be.  Like the legacy that they left for me and just the opportunity that they gave for all of us to be able to have this and to be able to play in.
A lot of people doubted the WNBA and how long it would last, and we'll be celebrating 20 years next year.  That's a heck of a thing to say.  I'm just blessed to have been a part of it.

Q.  I think one of the things that you've always been most noted for is sticking with the play and continuing to work until the ball is in the hoop and it's over.  We saw that in evidence a couple times today where coach said there wasn't any defense going on.  But the rest of both teams were halfway down the court and you were still working on that offensive rebound and scrambling.  Can you remember the point in your career where you decided that was going to be one of your traits, one of your earmarks?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  That point came to me in 2002 when I tried out for the USA team.  What I didn't know when I was trying out, and Van told me after the fact, I tore my ACL in 2001, or actually‑‑ yeah, 2001.  Came, had a‑‑ no, 2000.  So I spent the whole year out, right?  Came back.  And Van asked‑‑ and I found this out after the fact‑‑ Van asked, What is she doing here?  She's coming off an ACL.  She has no chance of making this team.  I guess right when he said that, he heard somebody screeching across the floor and he looked and it was me.  And someone said that's why she's here.
But making that Olympic team in 2002, the World Championship team Cheryl was there, Dawn was there, Lisa was there, Katie was there, you had all the stars there on that team.  I didn't need to shoot.  If I wanted to make that team, I had to rebound and I had to defend.  I didn't care about scoring.  As long as I rebounded and I defended, I would make that team, and that's what I focused on.
So literally that carried over from the USA team to the WNBA.  Like how can I make an impact?  If you look out here, we have all kinds of scorers.  We have scorers everywhere, and that's what people choose to focus on sometimes.  But you also need those players that are willing to do whatever it takes to help their team win, and that's what I want to be too.

Q.  It seems to be in your blood.  You have a history of your family playing ball.  You just said a minute ago this is my last press conference.  I can't believe that.  What are your plans for basketball after?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  Well, I'm planning afterwards I want to be a general manager.  That's what I've talked about for a while.  Staying around the game, you know.  So if it's not being a GM, I think it would be fun to kind of like when I was a kid, I used to love putting together puzzles, and I loved what they looked like at the end.  I just loved having pieces.  And I kind of look at it, I know it's different, but putting together your team.  Putting together a team of players that are not just great players, but everybody fit together, and you're able to pull together a team to make a championship caliber team, and that intrigued me.  But I'll do that, and of course my Catch A Star Foundation, just continue to build that.  I want to grow it outside of Indiana.  I want to go across the globe.  Not just here in America, but I want to go overseas too.

Q.  Just a quick question.  Bringing you back to the All‑Star Game.  Two years ago you were quoted as saying you should move around a little bit more.  Are you happy with the game here at the Mohegan Sun Arena or should it possibly move around to different arenas we move forward?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  I think it's always good for the game when you move around.  But here, when you look at the stands and you look at the support that we're able to get here, it's definitely a great place.  But last year with it being ‑‑ where were we?  San Antonio?  Phoenix?  Even the Phoenix game, the San Antonio game, the New York game that I was in way back when, all of it, D.C., all of the venues that we've been to have always been great.
Even, like I remember when it was in Phoenix when I was an intern with the Mercury way back when, so change it always good.  I think it's good for our game to continue to try out other venues, but Connecticut never fails.  We always have a good time here, and it's definitely a good place to host a game.

Q.  I think this is an appropriate last question.  There are very few people in the sporting world that are universally loved.  Derek Jeter comes to mind; you come to mind.  You never hear a person say anything negative about Tamika Catchings, both the athlete and the person.  Where does that drive to be that type of person never have a bad day come from?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  God, first, but my parents.  I've lived through a lot with them and just we've gone through a lot as a family.  Even with my hearing problem and dealing with that, that was tough on our family and tough on me too.
But I always remember as a little girl like I had to work so much harder than everybody else, but I didn't mind it because I knew one day that it would pay off.  So now when I look at my life and I look at where I've been and the opportunities that I've had, every single day when I walk into that locker room, I'm blessed.  I'm blessed to be able to walk.  I'm blessed to be able to have a locker room to go to.  I'm blessed to have such great teammates, just I'm blessed all the way around.  And then with my foundation, just being able to make an impact, I'm blessed to be able to do that.
So I think what I always do is just, I don't look at the negatives.  You know how people say is your glass half full or half empty?  I never look at the negative side of things because my mom never let me.  When I wanted to quit and give up and I didn't want to go to school, she didn't let me quit.  Basketball got hard, I sucked sometimes.  Oh, my gosh, I'm terrible.  I want to quit.  They never let me quit.  So I always knew that I had to work.
But now, I love people, and I love meeting people and I love doing different things and going on different adventures.  So every time I come into a room I never have somebody I haven't ever met.  It might be the first time I meet you, but it's like, hey, how you doing?  And great, it's so great to see you.  Very rarely do I say it's nice to meet you because I feel like I've met everybody.  So it's like you never have somebody that you're not a friend with.

Q.  Alex Bentley was an intern for the Fever.  You were an intern for the Mercury.  Who was a better intern?
TAMIKA CATCHINGS:  Definitely me.  I mean, come on.  She was the video coordinator, but that's a little bit harder than what I had to do.

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