2020 All-Star Weekend is officially underway in Chicago. It’s only Friday, but it has already been a very eventful weekend for the Indianapolis contingent.
On Friday morning, Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis led Chicago Public School students in a Jr. NBA Clinic at Navy Pier as part of the fifth annual Jr. NBA Day.
Sabonis led the students in basketball drills and offered them instruction, something that hit close to home. It wasn’t too long ago that the 23-year-old Sabonis was a kid himself, looking up to his father Arvydas and his teammates on the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I know how much it meant to me to want to be a basketball player,” Sabonis said.
“The most important thing is to see the big smiles on their faces.”
Then on Friday afternoon, Indiana Fever legend Tamika Catchings was named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Catchings is one of four players that were named as finalists for the Class of 2020 and the only WNBA player to receive the honor this year.
Joining Catchings as finalists are Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett as well as coaches Kim Mulkey, Barbara Stevens, Eddie Sutton, and Rudy Tomjanovich. The Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Announcement will take place on April 4 at the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta, Ga. A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2020 will be enshrined during festivities in Springfield, Mass. from Aug. 28-30.
It was the second significant honor for Catchings this week, as she was chosen on Monday for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, where she will be inducted on June 13. Catchings spent her entire 14-year career with the Fever, where she was a 10-time WNBA All-Star, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, the 2011 WNBA MVP and the 2012 WNBA Finals MVP.
“This far exceeds anything I ever thought,” Catchings said about Friday’s announcement. “It’s a blessing when I think about my beginning and think about a little girl with a hearing disability and not really what it would take and where I would go – but sports becoming my avenue in my life to be able to go to different levels and branch outside of my comfort zone.
“I’m just so thankful for basketball. I’m thankful for all my teammates and fans and coaches and teachers and all the people along the way that helped me get to where I am today.”
The moment was also bittersweet for Catchings because of the recent tragic passing of Bryant, whom she has known since childhood. Their fathers — Harvey Catchings and Joe Bryant — played professionally in Italy when Tamika and Kobe were young and they remained friends as they both ascended to the pinnacle of their sport. Both players spent their entire career with one franchise and won league championships and Olympic gold medals before retiring in 2016 and having their number 24 jerseys retired by their respective organizations.
Both were known as relentless competitors who left everything on the court every night they played.
“To be with this class, to be with (Kobe)…it’s truly amazing,” Catchings said. “When I think of us, what we both have in common is having that mentality not just on the court, but in our lives.”