By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — Much of the buzz around last week’s new inductees into the Naismith Hall of Fame has gone to the illustrious trio of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, all first ballot selections, champions and part of what some are claiming is the greatest class ever inducted. But across the state of Tennessee, many people are celebrating the inclusion in that group of Tamika Catchings, a prolific star at the University of Tennessee and later one of the WNBA’s all-time finest all-round players.
Catchings was a four-time All-American at Tennessee. She was the national Player of the Year in 2000. The Lady Vols won a national title during her tenure. She was equally great in the WNBA. Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star, the league MVP in 2011, and the Finals MVP in 2012. She also was part of four gold-medal winning Olympic teams, and a WNBA title team with Indiana. Catchings was Defensive Player of the Year five times and remains the WNBA’s all-time leader in steals. She was chosen one of the WNBA’s 20 greatest all-time players in 2016.
The credentials of Bryant, Duncan and Garnett are glittering. Bryant played 20 years, all with the Lakers. He was on five championship teams, was an 18-time All-Star, a four-time All-Star MVP, and a two-time Finals MVP. The All-Star MVP trophy has been renamed for him. He also was on two gold-medal winning Olympic teams. Sadly, Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others Jan. 26.
Duncan also played on five NBA title teams during his long career with the San Antonio Spurs. He was a 15-time All-Star, two-time league MVP, and three-time Finals MVP. Duncan was an all-NBA performer 15 times and a member of the all-defensive team eight times.
Garnett only played on one title team, the 2008 Boston Celtics, but he led the league in rebounding four times, and is 10th all-time in that category. He was on the all-defensive team nine times, and was Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. Others named in this class were former NBA player and coach Rudy Tomjanovich, Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey (already previously inducted as a player), former Division II women’s coach Barbara Stevens, former Division I men’s coach Eddie Sutton, and former FIBA executive Patrick Baumann.
This class will be formally inducted Aug. 29.