It is an argument as old as that comfortable pair of shoes you refuse to discard. Who has had more impact on Indianapolis as an athlete – Peyton Manning or Reggie Miller?
From barbershops to pubs all across the city and throughout the state, the debate rages on.
Sure, they were incredible during their respective playing careers and both made a huge impact off the stages they played upon, but in my humble opinion the “Big Two” have company, and it is a name that belongs squarely in the debate, and one that is long overdue in terms of the richly deserved recognition.
For years Tamika Catchings has been the face of the Indiana Fever and carried the banner of the WNBA as well. Laboring in obscurity and without fanfare, this talented and modest lady has had a phenomenal run in Indianapolis and it is mind boggling to me that few outside of the women’s game truly understand and appreciate what she has done for us.
Forget the accomplishments on the court that would take up an entire sports section to list, and simply examine her tireless efforts to help others less fortunate through her Catch the Stars Foundation. In addition to that labor of love, she has also served as an unofficial yet remarkable ambassador for the WNBA, distinguishing herself as an Olympian around the globe while also representing her peers as the president of the WNBA Players Association.
Most people in sports today would be happy with just one of those distinctions and few can ever fathom what it would be like to harness all of them.
She has inspired all who follow the game (and then some) by playing at a high level for some 12 years now, achieving multiple honors as a defensive player and the league MVP, while often battling through physical pain that would sideline many players.
Yet through it all she has maintained an incredibly low profile, concentrating on the various aspects of her life that make all the honors she has received on the court pale significantly in comparison.
Sure, there are those who would infer that without the elusive WNBA title she has battled for on her resume, she will be incomplete as a player. I say that could not be further from the truth, as she remains dignified and focused on whatever is in store for her.
Through it all, she has been a pleasure to watch and the example she has set for young women off the playing floor is even higher than the bar she has established on it. Simply put, she is a megastar, one that resonates with all the various factions that surround professional sports. More importantly, she is the benchmark for class, style and grace, and as she enters the twilight of her career we are fortunate to have her in our community as a person, and not just an athlete.
Hopefully she will get that championship before she hangs it up, but if she falls short of that goal, there will be no reason to look at her stellar career as anything less than sensational, rewarding and without question a gift to the community of Indianapolis. So the next time you are at a social gathering and the conversation shifts to the debate regarding Manning and Miller, feel free to interject her name as well. She certainly has earned that recognition.
Thank you Tamika for entertaining us, inspiring us and allowing us to be a part of your world. We as a community and not just sports fans, owe you a debt of gratitude, one as big as your infectious smile. When you hang it up, hopefully you will always be with us, no matter what path you take after basketball.
Something tells me it will be a road that leads to even greater success and you will still be helping others along the way.
Danny Bridges, who thinks Tamika Catchings is a Hall of Fame person first and foremost, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.