Tamika Catchings is 36, a 10-time WNBA All-Star and three-time Olympic gold medalist who plans to retire after the coming season. Elena Delle Donne is 26 and reigning WNBA MVP.
So they come at their roles as faces of women’s basketball from different directions, and different generations. But they agree the game is in good hands with Lisa Borders, who earlier this month was named WNBA president — with perhaps her most urgent priority being to address an admitted weakness for the league: marketing.
“I think her energy, her passion for the game, her excitement and the people she has around her, too, I think will be great for our game and continue to grow it,” Catchings said at espnW’s IMPACT25 Gala Thursday night in Manhattan.
“The biggest thing I’ve always told everybody that we need the most is our marketing. We have to do a better job of marketing, and with players going overseas (for the winter season), it’s tough. But it’s being able to take advantage of the players who do stay behind, like Elena, myself, Swin Cash is back, even some of our younger players have chosen to stay here and figure out what’s next for their life beyond basketball, and really taking advantage of those opportunities.
“One thing I know about (Borders), just being around her, is she was one of the key people who got the Atlanta Dream down in Atlanta (when she was Vice Mayor), so I know she doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk, too.”
Said Delle Donne, “I feel like we’re in a great place right now, being the 20th year (of the WNBA) and the Olympics this year, a new commissioner who’s absolutely incredible. After speaking with her and meeting with her a few times we are in great hands and she is the leader we need.
“I think the biggest thing we need is just continuing visibility. We have an awesome product. You put eyes on that product and we’ll get more and more fans.”
Delle Donne said she enjoys being one of the game’s most visible figures. “I love that,” she said. “It’s an incredible thing, and it’s an honor and I take it very seriously and hopefully can be a great role model for the youth.”
Delle Donne labeled the prospective U.S. Olympic team “incredible,” adding those making the cuts are “going to have a tough time narrowing it down to 12, because it’s a really special group. I’m honored to have been a part of it. Hopefully I can make the cut.”
Catchings is adamant that this is the end of the road for her. “This is the grand finale, right here, and it’s exciting,” she said. “It’s kind of like beginning the journey of the end, my encore days. But I’m really looking forward to what comes next.” (She has an autobiography, “Catch a Star,” due out in March.)
Catchings said the level of play has improved dramatically since she first entered the WNBA in 2002. (She has played her entire 13-year career with the Indiana Fever.)
“I think that it had to improve,” she said. “The players now are growing up with knowing about the opportunity, that one day they want to be in the WNBA. I didn’t have that. The WNBA didn’t come around until my freshman year in college (at Tennessee).”