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Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

WNBA Notebook: Tamika Catchings Providing Signature Farewell Visits on Her Legacy Tour

By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)

Tamika Catchings is embracing her final season in the WNBA by doing something special.

 While she has thrilled masses and treated everybody to a treasure trove of memories with her gifted game during a spectacular 16-year career, Catchings is delivering her biggest assist. 

The Indiana Fever forward is leaving something bigger than the game behind in her farewell season thanks to her Legacy Tour. 

Catchings and her Catch The Stars Foundation will conduct a postgame fundraising party in each of the 11 WNBA cities she visits and one in her home team city during the 2016 season. She will interact and sign autographs with fans while conducting an auction of various high-end Catchings items including the game-specific shoes she wore in the game that night. 

With intentions of establishing a legacy of giving, and at the same time helping extend her Foundation into each of those cities for future events, the Catch The Stars Foundation (CTSF) will issue a $2,000 grant to a local community partner that promotes fitness, literacy and mentoring, similar to the Catch The Stars mission for a total of $24,000 across 12 WNBA cities. 

"l'm really excited about this season," Catchings said last week during a conference call with reporters.

 "With it being my last season, one thing we talked about was that I don't want to be honored, per say, before the games or after the games, so, trying to figure out a better way for teams that want to honor me to do things.

"So, we came up with the idea of doing a legacy tour. We're doing one post game party in each city and really benefiting my Catch the Stars Foundation. With that, I didn't want to go into a city and take all the proceeds. Leaving a legacy, one thing I wanted to do was be very active in the communities."

Catchings will conduct seven bi-weekly conference calls throughout the 2016 season, intended to help promote her Legacy Tour, her final WNBA season and pre-Olympic coverage. This is a terrific idea by team public relations director Kevin Messenger and the rest of the Indiana Fever staff.

Following Friday's 74-71 road loss to Minnesota in a WNBA Finals rematch, Catchings and the Fever (2-2 overall) will play at red-hot Atlanta, off to a rip-roaring 4-1 start, Sunday afternoon at Phillips Arena.

 Fans can watch the game on NBA-TV starting at 3 p.m. with the terrific triumvirate of Bob Rathbun, LaChina Robinson and Angel Gray on the call for FoxSports Southeast.

With her University of Tennessee roots, this trip to Atlanta is bittersweet for Catchings as this will be the final time she'll play in Atlanta as a professional in a regular season game. 

It could also be memorable for the crowd as Catchings is on the verge of another in a litany of impressive milestones. In the loss to the Lynx, Catchings scored nine points to pull within 11 points of joining Tina Thompson as the only players in WNBA history with 7,000 career points.

"That is going to be emotional I'm sure with a lot of people that have been by my side from my college career, literally, all the way to where we are today," Catchings said. "I'm hoping that this isn't the last time we'll get to go to Atlanta.

"We'll get to go to the playoffs and have an opportunity. Yeah, we're going to have a lot of Knoxville fans in the house. A lot of people are coming to Atlanta."

Catchings has been blessed to compete at a high level throughout her entire career. While she's one of the bridges from the league's humble beginnings to solid present and bright future, She has never cheated the game. She even did her due diligence and reached out to Lisa Leslie to pick her brain about what to expect during retirement.

"It's funny because Lisa Leslie and I went to the rookie orientation, and leaving the orientation our flights got delayed in Connecticut so we ended up both getting stuck in Charlotte," Catchings said. 

"So, both of us ended up getting hotel room in Charlotte together and we watched Kobe's last NBA game. 

"And at one moment I stopped and I looked over and I was like, 'This is crazy.'

 "She said, 'What are you talking about?'

 "And I said, 'We're watching Kobe retire, I'm sitting with one of the greatest players in our game, ever, you, and I'm about to retire.' So we talked a little about what it meant to her to play in the WNBA and how that last season was for her. We talked to a couple of other players both former WNBA and NBA former players. 

"Everybody just said enjoy the moment. 'You've worked really hard, you've been around for a long time and just to be able to leave the game hopefully, knock on wood, injury free and be able to leave the game the way you want to leave it: Not to get cut or something happen, it's really been a blessing for me to have a great circle of people that I can talk to about it and really enjoy the moment."

Through 24 days in March, as part of the Legacy Tour announcement, fans participated in the Tamika Catchings Legacy Tour Shoe Design Contest via TamikaCatchings.com and NikeID. Twelve top designs have been chosen for Catchings to wear and auction during her tour. Winners receive an autographed copy of Catchings' recently released, bestselling autobiography, "Catch A Star," and a Tamika Catchings Legacy Tour t-shirt.

"I picked out my favorite 12, and some of them I picked strictly because of the design and the meaning behind the shoe," Catchings said. "So, 24 hours before the game we'll release the picture of the shoe that I'll be wearing and I'll wear them in shoot around and for the game that night. It's a way of getting the fans more engaged and allowing them that opportunity.

"Each of our winners will get a goody bag with the legacy tour shirt and some other goodies that we have. It was kind of just a fun idea we came up with."

Cherish this season and savor each Catchings performance. In the two plus years, I've been blessed to write about the wonderful WNBA and cover Catchings, she has never disappointed on or off the court. 

She always displays a cheerful nature when being interviewed or interacting with fans. On the court, I was lucky to witness and chronicle in 2014, two of her best career performances. 

A spectacular 29-point performance against the Liberty in her return to Madison Square Garden along with her amazing 26-point and 11-rebound effort in a classic playoff win over the Mystics in the Verizon Center. 

What will always stand out for me is spending 20 minutes speaking with and laughing with Catchings in the Fever locker room at Madison Sqaure Garden prior to her game. She didn't rush through answers or appear annoyed at my questions. 

It's not surprising that Catchings respectfully requested that teams not do any pregame tributes for her on the road like the ones conducted for Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and most recently, Kobe Bryant.

"Having been around (former Fever coach) Lin (Dunn), who stepped down from the Fever a few years ago, I just remember everything we went to, we would get warmed up and they would have a ten to 15 minute presentation to honor her and everything that she's done," Catchings said. “

"I really appreciate that people would want to do that, but a player perspective is I just want to play the game. I just want to play and I don't want it to be solely focused on me. I want it to be focused on the WNBA - we're celebrating our 20th year - and all the excitement around that.

"I really wanted to do something that would be more impactful and be able to not focus on what we do on the court, but what we do in the community."

Tamika Catchings 2016 Legacy Tour Schedule 

Sunday, May 29 at Atlanta (3:00 p.m.)

Friday, June 3 at New York (7:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 14 at Minnesota (7:00 p.m.)

Friday, June 17 at San Antonio (7:00 p.m.)

Saturday, June 25 at Dallas (7:30 p.m.)

Wednesday, June 29 at Chicago (12:30 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 6 at Los Angeles (7:30 p.m.)

Friday, July 8 at Phoenix (7:00 p.m.)

Sunday, July 10 at Seattle (4:00 p.m.)

Saturday, August 27 at Indiana (7:00 p.m.)

Sunday, September 11 at Washington (4:00 p.m.)

Tuesday, September 13 at Connecticut (7:00 p.m.)


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