14-gettyimages-511835312_300pxThe Musial Award for Extraordinary Character is one of two special honors bestowed at the Musial Awards. It recognizes an individual or team who demonstrates remarkable poise, perseverance and overall sportsmanship, and whose approach and accomplishments reflect the character attributes of Stan the Man. This year, we are honored to celebrate Tamika Catchings, the embodiment of grace, determination and generosity.

Upon receiving her invitation to the Musial Awards, Tamika Catchings wanted to learn more about The Man. So, she went to a trusted source: her brother, Kenyon, who lives in St. Louis. He detailed Stan’s stellar career, his reputation for dignity, class and sportsmanship, and his importance not only in St. Louis but across the country. She also saw the list of previous honorees.

It didn’t take long, she says, “to realize how big of a deal this is. To have his professional career and for what he was able to do in St. Louis, to the point that his legacy lives on was impressive.” “Legacy” became the catchword (pardon the pun) this year for Tamika, in her 16th and final WNBA season. She finished her career with a mountain of on-the-court superlatives:

  • Five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2011 MVP
  • 2012 Finals MVP
  • First player ever—man or woman—to record a quintuple-double (25 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 steals, and 10 blocks) in one game
  • Four-time Olympic gold medalist

11-fpm_1850_500px

She served teammates and foes alike as president of the WNBA players union for 12 years. But she saved her best for the youngsters of Indianapolis through her Catch the Stars Foundation, empowering kids to achieve their dreams through programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring. Tamika has provided free backpacks and school supplies to more than 600 students in need, and hosted an annual fitness clinic and holiday basketball camp. She also found time during the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis to host a tournament for high school girls.

She was beyond worthy of the standard farewell tour bestowed on the likes of Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant and David Ortiz, complete with heartfelt tributes from rivals, gee gaws and gag gifts.

Just one problem.

“That’s not me. I don’t need anything, nor do I want anything,” Tamika says. “The big thing that would help is looking at the foundation, looking at expansion and giving back, especially to the kids. We also had an opportunity to share a little bit of me and get a chance to reach out to the fans.”

15-gettyimages-583520972_500pxThus was born the Legacy Tour. After a game in each of the 12 WNBA cities this season, she met with fans, signed autographs and auctioned off personal mementos, including the game shoes she wore each night. Tickets cost $24, matching her jersey number, with proceeds going to Catch the Stars. Tamika also handed out a donation in each city to a charity that promotes fitness, literacy and mentoring, seed money for one of her ultimate goals: expanding Catch the Stars to every city in the league.

“One of the things that I’ve appreciated in every city is how the organizations have opened their arms and to celebrate my foundation,” she says. “But we don’t want to come in and take. I want to give back to organizations that are similar to what I focus on. We’re talking about raising up our kids, and I want to be one of those people who can help kids achieve their goals.”
With her WNBA career behind her, Tamika will have time to expand the foundation and chart her next steps, though she expects to take a few months “to chill.”

She made an exception, though, for the Musial Awards. “It’s so cool that there’s an award named after him,” she says. “It’s truly an honor to receive an award like this.”