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Better late than never for Catchings

Tamika Cathcings didn’t want to have an asterisk beside her name on the list of the all-time greats in women’s basketball.

Thankfully, after the 33-year-old’s heroics in the WNBA play-offs for the Indiana Fever, she will not.

The three-time USA Olympic gold-medal winner at long last captured a WNBA title with Indiana, the only club she has played for in her long and distinguished career in the league.

Capturing championships in the best women’s club competition in the world is never easy but at least Catchings can finally say she’s done it.

Coming off a 2011 season in which she had been named the 2011 WNBA MVP, Catchings went into 2012 with a couple of things in mind.

First, she wanted to experience the thrill of another top-of-the-podium finish with the United States at the Olympics, which she did in London.

Second, she set to lead Indiana to their first WNBA crown.

After being named as the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, Catchings helped the Fever dethrone the Minnesota Lynx, 3-1, in the Finals.

“Everybody kept saying the one thing she doesn’t have is a WNBA championship and now it’s like it is. It’s complete,” Catchings said.

“Everybody talks about the missing piece in Tamika Catchings’ career, and our players took that personally,” Fever coach Lin Dunn said.

“I really believe that was an incentive, and then when Katie (Douglas) went down (injured), they wanted to win it for her.

“A lot of emotional things came into play here that somehow overcame talent.”

Catchings is such a popular player that even Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve paid tribute to her.

“There’s not anybody that cannot be happy for Tamika Catchings to finally get a championship,” Reeve said.

Adding to an emotional occasion for Catchings in Game 4 was the presence of her former coach at the University of Tennessee, Pat Summitt.

Summitt, the coach of the USA women’s Olympic squad at the 1976 Montreal Games, announced just over a year ago that she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

She coached the 2011-12 season and now is the head coach emeritus at Tennessee.

One lesson that Catchings would have learned from Summitt is that no matter how difficult things look in a game, a season or life, one never gives up.

Catchings certainly never gave up on her dream of winning that first WNBA title.

This season with Indiana was a hard one, but not too difficult for Catchings and her teammates to survive.

“This journey has been full of ups and downs, full of trials and tribulations, full of tears and happy faces,” Catchings said.

“But today we stand with happy faces, and I like that.”

Catchings, who has also captured two gold medals at FIBA World Championships for Women, in 2002 and 2010, will go after a third when the Americans try to defend their title at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women in Turkey.

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