You can bet Storm F Tina Thompson would rather spend this weekend with family in Los Angeles. She played her final regular-season game at Staples Center on Thursday, retiring this fall after a storied 17-year career in the WNBA. Instead, the four-time WNBA champion is headed to Connecticut to participate in the league’s 11th All-Star Game.
Thompson, 38, was added on Thursday as an injury replacement for Phoenix rookie Brittney Griner. While the 6 foot 8 C has been all over to pub the league since the WNBA tipped in May, Griner hasn’t played her past five games due to a left knee sprain. She was voted an All-Star starter by fans.
Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, who’ll lead the Western Conference stars due to winning the 2012 conference title, will name a replacement in the starting lineup later. Reeve has four players on the squad while the Sparks have three to dominate the West lineup. San Antonio (Danielle Robinson), Tulsa (Glory Johnson) and now Seattle have one player apiece. Phoenix All-Star Diana Taurasi will also rep the Mercury at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The midsummer classic airs on Saturday at 12:30 pm PT on ABC.
Technically, being placed on the team in this manner isn’t ideal for Thompson, an eight-time All-Star. Saturday’s game marks a record-ninth All-Star appearance, placing Thompson ahead of C Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles) and Tamika Catchings (Indiana). Leslie and Jackson competed in eight WNBA All-Star Games in their 12 seasons; Catchings is set to participate in her eighth this weekend.
“We wouldn’t want the league to just put her on there,” said Aaron Goodwin recently, Thompson’s Seattle-based agent. “She’s earned everything she’s got in her career. That’s the way she started as the No. 1 pick and that’s the way she’s going to go out.”
Thompson added of being honored throughout the season for retiring: “I don’t want a circus.”
But while even teammate, F Camille Little (12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds), could be a better sub for Griner, Thompson did earn the nod.
She’s the sole remaining player from the inaugural season, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 draft. Thompson, 6-2, went on to define versatility at her position with her three-point shot and grit inside the paint, something other post players weren’t doing at the time. Thompson’s the WNBA-leading scorer with 7,195 points among other stats the top league history. And Thompson helped defined the nouveau term “professional women’s basketball player” when the idea of a woman playing pro ball in America didn’t exist.
“She set the standard,” said Atlanta C Ruth Riley, who was drafted in 2001 after winning a championship with Notre Dame.
Thompson’s placement means Seattle will continue to have an All-Star representative since the game’s inception in 1999. Jackson, a seven-time All-Star selected No. 1 overall draft pick in 2001, was the organization’s first selection, a reserve for the 2001 game. PG Sue Bird, a seven-time All-Star, is the all-time leading vote-getter with 128,838 set in 2007.