Catchings bids farewell to her international career in gold medal game

Tamika Catchings thought she was done in London. She thought that it would be her third and final Olympics. They left with a gold medal, earning it in a dominating fashion, and she thought that it was time to turn it over to the young ones.

Later, Diana Taurasi talked her out of it.

“Yeah, we’re coming back for one more,” Taurasi, who was on the last three Olympic Teams like Catchings and Sue Bird, told Tamika.

“I was like, ‘Ohhh. We are? Ok.’ Catchings later shared.

Well Saturday afternoon they are back on the big stage, facing Spain, a team they are 3-0 all-time against, in what will be Catchings’ last game with USA Basketball. She’ll return home to the United States with that gold medal — Team USA is way better than the rest of the world — to celebrate, and then will certainly finish out her final WNBA season strong with the Indiana Fever.

“Knowing that this year is the grand finale, I’m definitely want to go out with a bang and giving it everything that I have,” Catchings said before traveling to Rio.

Most WNBA players continue playing overseas after the season. That’s where the real money is. But the WNBA still remains the top league in the world with the best talent. And that’s why year after year we see the USA Women’s Olympic Team handle opponents on the international stage.

That said, they know that there is always a big target on their backs.

“I know that for literally the last three and a half years, teams have been preparing to beat the U.S. team,” Catchings added.

Team USA went 5-0 in pool play, then beat China by 46 points and France by 19 to reach the finals. Just how stacked is Team USA? Elena Delle Donne, the WNBA MVP last season, is coming off the bench. They are crazy good.

The gold medal game, Catchings’ “grand finale,” will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC.

Tamika’s role with this team has been very different than any other team she’s been on. She’s coming off the bench and playing the fewest amount of minutes on the team. But her contributions extend beyond playing time.

She’s one of three captains — with Taurasi and Bird. She’s one of the best defensive players in the game and it was hard work and determination that got her there. She didn’t enjoy playing defense, and didn’t do it well until she arrived at the University of Tennessee. And she’s also a great sounding board and veteran leader for the next generation of stars.

Admittedly, though, she’s a “quiet leader by example.” She might be the first one at practice or back on the court after games to work on her shot. I’ve seen it first hand, her work ethic is without parallel.

With this being her final Olympics, Catchings had goals of her own outside of the gym.

“Really the one thing that I want to do different that I haven’t done is go to other events,” she said. “I think you get so locked in to being prepared and for us, we play every other day and practice in between so I never really thought I had time or a chance to go and experience other events. But this time around, I really want to get out and take in the whole experience so that I can walk away and be like, ‘OK, I didn’t just play basketball at every single Olympics. I did other things, too.'”

Her husband, Parnell, is there with her the entire way. Her mom, Wanda, step-mom, and little brother also made the trip. Harvey, her dad who played in the NBA from 1974-1985, attended the 2012 London Olympics.

Based on her Instagram feed, Catchings has stayed busy, explored, and soaked in the entire experience.

Catchings, without question the best individual who I know, has proudly worn the Red, White, and Blue for nearly 50 games.

“I feel Blessed every single day I wake up and get an opportunity to represent the U.S.A!!” Catchings shared on social media. “Thanks for all of the love, notes and support from each of u. Time to work.

“One goal… GOLD!!! Proud of our team but no let ups yet!! One more game!!”

So this is it. Late Saturday afternoon, Catchings and her eleven teammates will stand on a platform and bend forward to have the gold medal placed over their heads.

Mission (soon to be) complete. Four-for-four.

“It’s been a while. It’s been a long time,” Catchings of her time with Team USA. “But the journey has to come to an end at some time.”

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