Tina Thompson’s career comes to an end, a Dishin’ story, and Thompson’s peers pay tribute to a legend

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We have known the inevitable, that the Seattle Storm’s season would eventually end and with it, the end of Tina Thompson’s legendary career.

The tributes have been many, the amazing statistics repeated again and again. The talk about the game, the lipstick, but one thing I did not see was any discussion about Tina Thompson’s sense of humor. Please allow me to tell you a quick story about Tina Thompson’s quick wit, and her love for the fans.

The first time I met Tina Thompson, she was sitting on the bleachers in a high school gym in Springfield, Massachusetts, waiting to play in the NWBL playoffs for the Houston Stealth. While Sheryl Swoopes wore headphones and already had her game face on which kept people away, Tina had on sun glasses and was just sitting there, sort of chilling. She had already signed numerous autographs for kids and adults alike, including a bunch of WNBA cards for my daughter, without a second thought.

A few minutes after everyone else finished, a woman came over somewhat shyly, with a piece of paper and asked her quietly for an autograph. Tina peered over the sunglasses and said sternly to the woman, “five bucks!” The woman stood there, not sure what to do, until finally reaching into her pocket to pull out the money. Stunned, Tina almost doubled over in laughter, apologizing profusely to the woman if she upset her, and offering to do just about anything to make it up to the woman short of putting her in the game for the Stealth.

It was a small moment, one I am sure Tina has no memory of, but one that really etched itself in my memory; the superstar, one of the best in the world, in a high school gym playing in a minor league to help grow women’s basketball in this country, joking with a fan, and then taking the time to make sure the woman who did not get the joke walked away happy. By the way, Thompson then went out and won the NWBL championship.

Thank you for the fond memories, Tina Thompson. You have been a star, a legend, an inspiration, and more. Here is how you have impacted just a few of the superstars of the WNBA today.

Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)

“She’s meant so much to the league overall. I don’t even know where to start, with all the things she’s brought to the game of basketball. I’m just honored I got the opportunity to get to know her, to call her my big sister, my mentor. She’s been an inspiration for me, and it’s kind of a sad moment, knowing that this is going to be it. Hopefully when the season’s over for a little bit, she’ll miss it and say “I’m coming back for another year…to Indiana!”

Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)

“Nobody deserves all the praise, all the tributes more than Tina. I have been on teams where she was the best player in the world a lot of times. Overlooked a little bit by the outside world, because she always played with so many stars or outgoing personalities, but I always say that Tina was the best player I have ever played with, hands down.”

Sylvia Fowles: (Chicago Sky)

“It’s always great to have Tina around, another big body that’s physical, but at the same time, she’s added her own touches to the game. Every year she added on to her own game, she’s always involved; she’s always kept working at being great. I respect her game, I love playing against her, but overall I respect her.”

Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty)

“Tina Thompson has meant a great deal. She was the number one pick in the first WNBA season; she’s a fashionista who I’ve looked up to since I was a kid. Tina’s a great pioneer in women’s basketball. We are definitely going to miss her, her presence in the league. She’s an inspiration to not just me but a lot of young women, who aspire to play basketball. She’s just meant a great deal, I’m honored to have gotten to play with her and against her.

Allison Hightower (Connecticut Sun)

“I’ve looked up to her since I was like eleven. Because I was the biggest Comets fan and she was one of the big three. I just loved watching her and the rest of them play. She’s a legend in this game, and everybody looks up to her. She’s a great model for this league.”

Crystal Langhorne (Washington Mystics)

“Tina is one of the greatest players to ever play this game. She’s not only a great player, she’s a great person. She always looks great off the court too, a great dresser. There’s so much I could say about her, there isn’t time to discuss all she means.”

Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)

“It was really fun to spend All-Star weekend with Tina, just to be a part of celebrating her, and her awesome career. She’s definitely one of the shoulders that I stand on, watching her from when the league first started, the four championships, her presence in the league and how she carries herself; she’s definitely someone who sets the bar for us. I’m just happy to be able to hang out with her, laugh with her, learn from her, and just be able to experience having a conversation with her.”

Rebekkah Brunson (Minnesota Lynx)

“Tina is amazing. Coming into the league, she was someone I idolized and looked up to. She’s a great player still, and even better person. If I can take anything from having the opportunity to play alongside her in All-Star competitions, or just to watch her and compete against her, is how humble she is, how willing she is to give back, and how easily she opens her wings to take you underneath of them, just to show you the way, to teach you everything she knows and to show you what it takes to be successful.”

Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock)

“Watching her play, she’s been a real inspiration. She’s been doing it for a while, and she’s been doing it good for a while. You want your game to be like hers, as poised as she is when she plays, and now that she’s retiring I’m going to miss her. At the same time we want to be like she is, on and off the court. She does a great job being a role model for younger kids and younger players.”

There you have it. Mentor to Catchings, respected by Fowles on and off the court, inspiration to Pondexter, and so much more. Perhaps Brunson said it best, describing Thompson’s willingness to “take you underneath [her wings]” and teach you everything.

That to me, is the ultimate compliment you could pay to an athlete. Good luck in your next venture Tina Thompson, and thank you for sharing your skills and talents with us all.

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