Having announced in the fall that the 2016 season would be her last, Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings currently is in Toronto for her final NBA All-Star Weekend as a player. While she may be hanging up her sneakers soon, that doesn't mean she's taking it easy. The former WNBA MVP was running around the city all weekend for various NBA Cares and Jr. NBA events, as well as making appearances at the rest of the festivities.
After taking part in a wheelchair basketball clinic, Catchings took a brief moment to chat with us about her time in Toronto, life as she nears retirement and what it will be like watching her longtime friend Kobe Bryant play in his last All-Star Game.
espnW: You've been involved in so many of the NBA Cares events this weekend. What does it mean to you to be able to give back?
Catchings: It means a lot. I think of all the experiences I've had, and all the people that have helped me along the way, I talk about it all the time, but there are so many people that have allowed me to get where I am today. For me, this is such a great opportunity to give back. And you know, here in Toronto, they don't have a WNBA team, and there are a lot of people who know about many of the individual players, but I think by the time we leave the clinic, all the kids that are involved who are excited to meet us and now know who we are, I think they'll be way more interested in the league. It's always about being as much of an inspiration as possible.
espnW: You participated in today's drills in a wheelchair, what was that like?
Catchings: First time! It was hard. It was really hard. The biggest thing is, when you think you should be going forward, you're not really going forward, and when you think you should be going backwards, you're not. It's amazing that these kids are able to do that. All the kids here today were really excited. One boy was like "Oh man, I picked the ball up from the wheel!" It was his first time being able to do that. We take that kind of thing for granted.
espnW: This is your last All-Star Weekend as a player. What is that like for you?
Catchings: Honestly, I haven't really thought about it. I've been so busy. I've gone from one event to another, you really just think about when you have time to get some food in the middle, and that's really it! It's just a blessing to be here. I talked to some of the older, retired guys and I'm like "Y'all are old! Y'all are the legends." But then I was thinking about it, next year, I'm going to be a legend. I'm going to one of the old ones! I still am making my jokes though. Have to do it while I can!
espnW: You're of course a longtime, childhood friend of Kobe Bryant. What does it mean to be here for his last All-Star Game?
Catchings: It's really cool. And whether tonight is his best All-Star Game that he's played in or not, it doesn't even matter. The fact that he was the top vote-getter says everything. I know it's got to be surreal for him. Even for me, everybody keeps saying to me "It's your last year!" And you don't realize everything you're doing is for the last time. I think for him, everybody is talking about it, but when you're living it, you can't really take in everything. For me, being here and being a part of it, I'm just so excited for him. It's such a surreal event. Everyone is basically honoring him and here to celebrate his career. No matter what happens in the game itself, this is his night.