Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings with Andrew Anderson, who received the Dedication award at the St. Vincent Sports Performance Spirit of Sports Awards in Indianapolis on Tuesday.
In ideal circumstances, there are a number of basketball players capable of making the shot that Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings missed on Friday night on the final possession of her team's 81-80 loss to the New York Liberty.
Fewer players would actually be confident enough to take the risk of being the person responsible for missing a game-winning shot like that as Catchings did.
And, more often than not, we put the elite group that would make that kind of shot with any sort of consistency on the rickety pedestal of stardom.
But what separates the very good players who make shots from the great players who win games is their response to taking that risk and losing - they're dedicated to improvement and willing to take that risk again when others might simply fold.
"I hate to lose, but when you look at what we accomplished in the second half...we have a great team and we can build on that," Catchings said after the loss, as quoted by Ben Jones of the Indianapolis Star.
True to her word, Catchings took the loss as motivation and built on it 24 hours later in a rematch with the Liberty - she scored 7 of her 19 point on 2-for-3 shooting in the fourth quarter as the Fever spoiled the Liberty's home opener with an 86-80 win.
Catchings has never won a MVP award, but it might be hard to convince the Fever and their fans that she hasn't deserved one (or a few). And if it were up to Catchings, the resilience she showed this weekend might be a significant criteria for granting a player the honor."I think the biggest MVP criteria for me would be character," Catchings said in an interview squeezed in between the two games against the Liberty. "Someone that helps make her teammates better. I'm a character-driven person, and I think it's important on and off the court."
There's been so much written about how genuine and wonderful a person Tamika Catchings is that her name has almost become synonymous with "character" in WNBA circles. However, her unwavering dedication to her craft might has rarely been more apparent than during the Fever's home-and-home with the Liberty, which came days after presenting an award to Andrew Anderson at the St. Vincent Sports Performance Spirit of Sports Awards (SOSA) in Indianapolis.
SOSA recognizes six core character attributes in Indianapolis student-athletes, with former Butler star and Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward and Indiana Pacers forward Josh McRoberts presenting awards in addition to Catchings.
Catchings probably would have been a fitting presenter for any one of those six awards, but this year she presented Anderson with the Dedication award.
"It was an honor for me to present this award because Dedication is a component that should be used for life in general, not just athletics," Catchings said. "All of the presenters here, Josh (McRoberts), Gordon (Hayward), have all had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get where they are today. You have to set a goal of what you want and commit to that."
Anderson clearly exemplifies the qualifies of someone whose dedication extends beyond sports.
St.Vincent Sports Performance Honors Student Athletes | IndyStar.com | The Indianapolis Star
Despite losing his parents at a young age, Anderson persevered to become a role model to his fellow student-athletes at Lawrence Central. He motivated his fellow team members on the importance of good schoolwork, which has been exemplified by his stellar GPA. After his junior year in football, Andrew set a goal to be the starting wide receiver. His determination showed in the intensity and leadership he displayed in all the winter and spring workouts and culminated in an excellent season.
Of course, Catchings' dedication to serving humanity extends beyond this one awards show, even just this past week.
Two days after SOSA, Catchings' foundation held its Annual Catch the Stars Scholar Athlete Reception events on Thursday. At that event, she honored 29 local high school students and awarded two $2,500 scholarships to one male and one female athlete. It is the fifth year she has done this and it has raised over $30,000 in scholarships. She eventually hopes to be able to award full four year scholarships.
For Catchings, her foundation's award was just her way of giving back since she had received a scholarship herself from the University of Tennessee, but it's quite evident that one Lady Vols scholarship has paid huge dividends that extend not only beyond the basketball court but also beyond the one individual life it supported.
And the most remarkable thing is that she never seems to stop giving, even as she's dedicated to helping her team win games in two cities in two nights in their quest for a franchise-first WNBA championship.
But even then, it's hard to imagine that possessing hardware would do much more to define her as a champion.