When Tamika Catchings was named a 2015 inductee into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame this week, it was a no-brainer.
The 35-year-old forward led the Indiana Fever to a WNBA title in 2012. She’s been named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year more times than we can count. She’s a three-time Olympic gold medalist. She’s been called one of the greatest women’s basketball players in the world.
But you probably knew all that.
So, we decided to do a little digging around for some lesser-known aspects of this Indiana Hall of Famer, who will officially be inducted in April. Take a look.
First quintuple double
In the history of basketball, there had never been an officially recorded quintuple double until Catchings came along. And she did it as a teenager in 1997 at Duncanville High School in Texas.
It’s quite a feat. Catchings recorded double-digit totals in all five statistical categories — points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots — in a single game. She had 25 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 steals and 10 blocks.
Since then, only one quintuple double has been recorded. That was by another high school girl, Aimee Oertner of Northern Lehigh High School in Slatington, Pa., who had 26 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals and 11 blocks in 2012.
Sometimes hearing aids, sometimes lip reading
Catchings was born with a hearing impairment in both ears. Her parents bought her aids. But back then, those hearing aids were huge and clunky. She had speech problems. Kids teased her for the way she talked, for the hearing aids.
Yet, what was miserable for young Catchings, who said she just wanted to “be normal,” turned into something great. Sports.
“In the classroom, kids could make fun of me for being different,” Catchings told ESPN. “On the soccer field (my first sport) and eventually the basketball court, they couldn’t. I outworked them, plain and simple. Eventually, I was better than them.”
Throughout her life, Catchings has opted to go without hearing aids, relying on lip reading, instead. Today, she wears a special athletic pair when playing or when she’s out making appearances. But when she’s just hanging out, she prefers no aids.
It’s in her blood
Catchings isn’t the only professional basketball player in the family. Her dad and her sister are, too.
Her dad, Harvey, played in the NBA from 1974-85. He was drafted out of Hardin-Simmons University in the third round of the NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. The 6-9 center and power forward also played for the New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers.
His career wasn’t quite as impressive as his daughter’s, with NBA career averages of 3.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. But he beams with pride as he watches Tamika play.
Tamika’s sister, Tauja, played at the University of Illinois, then was drafted by the WNBA. She now plays in Sweden.
Random personal tidbits
If Catchings could have a a basketball nickname, she knows exactly what it would be: Catch-Me-If-You-Can. The food she couldn’t live without? French fries.
During a series of random questions earlier this year, Catchings told The Star her biggest pet peeve is people lying, her favorite artist to jam to is J. Moss. If she could be the Invisible Woman for one day, she would “go to the White House and see what they got going on.”
And finally, if she hadn’t ended up a professional basketball player? She would have been maybe a teacher or counselor, any job that had to do with kids. Which is no surprise. Catchings has an organization, Catch The Stars, aimed at helping youth by promoting literacy, fitness and mentoring.
The WNBA career that never was?
Under legendary coach Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee, Catchings thrived. As a freshman, she was a key part of the Lady Vols’ national championship team that went 39-0. In her career at Tennessee, Catchings averaged 16.6 points and 7.9 rebounds. She ranks fourth in school history in career scoring (2,113) and rebounding (1,004), and was recently inducted into the Lady Volunteer Hall of Fame.
But despite her stellar collegiate career, there was some concern that Catchings might not be picked in the 2001 WNBA draft. Seventeen games into her senior season at Tennessee, Catchings tore her right ACL.
Still, the Fever jumped at the opportunity to take Catchings with the third pick, behind Lauren Jackson (who went first overall to Seattle) and Kelly Miller (second overall to Charlotte). That torn ACL ended up sidelining Catchings for the entire 2001 season with the Fever. Of course, she redeemed herself.