Catchings was known to do everything for her team, too. Her Fever teams reached the playoffs every season from 2005 to 2016, including W.N.B.A. finals appearances in 2009, 2012 and 2015. They did so without the kind of supporting cast typically found on finalists, instead relying on Catchings to elevate the play of her teammates.
“Tamika Catchings was a cut above the rest because of her mental fortitude and competitive will,” Reeve said. “Her ability to drag her team to wins, especially come playoff time, was second to none. Because of Catch’s ability to lift her team competitively, you could never, ever count the Indiana Fever out.”
Reeve experienced this firsthand in 2012, a playoff run that meant, to Catchings, an affirmation of her greatness. The year before, she had been honored in San Antonio in 2011, as part of the top 15 W.N.B.A. players for the league’s first 15 seasons. She recalled being one of the few without a title as each player was announced.
“And I remember saying to myself in that moment, I hope and refuse to retire without a W.N.B.A. championship.”
And in 2012, she refused to lose — not to Angel McCoughtry and the Atlanta Dream in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and not to 2012 league Most Valuable Player Tina Charles and the Connecticut Sun on the road in a decisive Game 3, even after Indiana’s second-leading scorer, Katie Douglas, was lost to injury five minutes into the game.
And not to Reeve’s defending champions from Minnesota, the overwhelming favorites to repeat.
Catchings remembers the little battles well, the ebb and flow of all the games in that series. She remembers, too, what she described as a huge weight taken off her shoulders as the final buzzer sounded after one last defensive stop.
“We weren’t supposed to win,” Catchings said. “We were definitely David, and Minnesota was the Goliath. We just kept playing, we had our head down and just kept playing and swinging and everybody rose to the occasion.”