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Thompson, Tina 1975–

Tina Thompson 1975

Professional basketball player

Played Ball With the Boys

Solid Professional Play

Won Third Consecutive Championship

Sources

Tina Thompson, All-Star forward for the Houston Comets, has developed a large fan base as much for her play as for her personality. She has played for the WNBA since she was chosen as the leagues first overall pick in the 1997 inaugural draft. She has been an integral part of the Comets Big Three, sharing the spotlight with Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes. With the Big Three, the Comets have been a formidable force in the league and have won three consecutive WNBA titles. Thompson was a WNBA All-Star in 1997 and 1998. While she plans to eventually go to law school and become a judge, she also plans to play for a while. If my body holds up, and Im physically and mentally fit, Ill be playing for a while, Thompson told fans at a WNBA online interactive chat.

Played Ball With the Boys

Thompson was born in Los Angeles, California on February 10, 1975. The family had five children including Thompson; she grew up with two brothers and two sisters. She seemed destined for a life in basketball. By the time she reached sixth grade, Thompson was already one of the tallest children in her class, standing 511 tall. Her brother, Tommy, and his friends played basketball at the recreation center near their home and she would tag along. Although they would not let her play with them inside the center, she managed to find games outside. Thompson related in a WNBA web site feature, A lot of the boys there didnt like the fact that a girl was playing basketball, their sport. They were actually rather cruel. But as her game developed and those boys saw that she had developed a nice outside shot, Thompson gained some respect and was eventually invited inside to play.

Thompson attended Inglewood Morningside High School in the early 1990s and continued playing basketball, joining her father and brother at the playgrounds. She also played on the school team. Thompson earned a reputation for toughness and shooting, and scored over 1,500 points. She played volleyball too, but was eventually kicked off the team for shooting baskets with the volleyballs.

Thompson entered the University of Southern California in 1993 and majored in sociology. She earned good grades, and was named PAC-10 Freshman of the

At a Glance

Born February 10, 1975, in Los Angeles, CA; Education: University of Southem California, B.S. in sociology, 1997.

Career: Starred at lnglewood Morningside High School in Los Angelas, California; played for the University of Southern California, 199397; drafted in the first round by the Houston Cornets, May 1997, first pick in inaugural WNBA draft; forward for the Houston Comets, 1997.

Awards: Named PAC-10 Freshman of the Year, 1 994; PAC-10 secdnd-feading rebounder and third-leading scorer, 1997; AP All-America second team, Kodak District Ail-AmeriCd Team, 199697; All PAC-10 First Team, 1 99697; named to Alf-WNBA first Team, 1997 named to All-WNBA First Team, 1998;; voted a Wast; team starter in WNBA first-ever AH-Star Game 1999.

Addresses: OfficeWdustor Comes Two Greenway Plaza, Suite 400, Houston, TX 770463865.

Year in 1994. By the time Thompson graduated from college in 1997, she was the PAC-10 conferences third leading career rebounder with 1,168 rebounds, and its second leading scorer with 2,248 points. She planned to attend law school, and eventually become a judge. However, the Womens National Basketball League (WNBA) was formed, and Thompson was picked first by the Houston Comets in the inaugural draft. She said in a WNBA online chat, For me, it was the most unbelievable experience of my life. Being a part of history, the first ever to be picked for the WNBA, is something I will never live down. It is the highlight of my career. In her first game with the Comets, Thompson reacted like most athletes would in a new situation. She said in her online chat, The most..nervous I felt was the first game. We played in Cleveland, and they were picked to be number one in the East. It was a big game. We played very well, shot very well and we killed them. That was the most exciting day, because we werent expected to be a good team. Winning that game was a real motivation for us.

Solid Professional Play

Thompson established herself as a valuable player during her first year. She led the Comets in rebounds in 1997 with 6.6 rebounds per game, good for seventh place overall in the WNBA. Thompson also led the team in blocked shots, averaging one per game and ranking sixth in the league. She was ranked second on the Comets that year in scoring, three-point percentage, and was ranked third in free-throw percentage. Thompson recorded a WNBA career-high 24 points and nine rebounds against the Cleveland Rockers on July 29, 1997, and was named to the 1997 All-WNBA First Team. In 1998 she was ranked second on the Comets in free-throw percentage, three-pointers, and third in scoring and three-point percentage. Thompsons solid performances contributed to three consecutive WNBA championships for the Houston Comets in 1997, 1998, and 1999.

In 1997, Kellogg USA became the official cereal sponsor of the WNBA. To show its support, the company created limited-edition series of Special K cereal boxes honoring the WNBA. The first series was an inaugural season-themed multi-pack of Kelloggs cereals, where five league players were featured. When the Houston Comets won the 1997 WNBA Championship, the Special K boxes featured Tina Thompson along with teammates Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes. The Comets became the first womens sports team to appear on a box of Kelloggs cereal.

While Thompson established herself as a solid player, teammates Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper, already known for their play in the American Basketball League (ABL), received a lot of the attention. Instead of craving the spotlight, Thompson focused on developing her game. Thompson and her teammates received a great deal of press about their offensive play, but their defensive abilities were often overlooked. Thompson proved to be a solid defensive player. Houston Comets coach Van Chancellor said in a WNBA web site feature, Its a shame, but Tina never gets enough credit for her defense. She is the best post defender in this league, and often she sacrifices offense because she has to work so hard against the bigger opponents on defense. Thompson replied, I love playing defense because it is a symbol of hard work and hustle. I dont mind playing against bigger players or getting physical, I do it because it helps us win games. Thompsons defensive prowess has allowed teammates Swoopes and Cooper to excel offensively. Cooper said, Sheryl [Swoopes] and I do a lot of scoring but Tina helps make it possible with all the little things she does, from screening, to hitting threes to grabbing rebounds. She is a big part of everything that happens for us.

Won Third Consecutive Championship

Thompsons play during the 1999 season was solid as well. She was voted a West team starter in the WNBAs first-ever All Star Game that summer. She led her team in rebounds, scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a July game against the Cleveland Rockers, and scored 22 points and a game-high 12 rebounds in June against the Orlando Miracle. Thompson also reached career highs in points, free throws, and steals. She helped to lead the Comets to their third-straight WNBA championship in 1999, despite the teams difficulties with injuries and the death of teammate Kim Perrot, who died of lung cancer in August.

Although she is serious about playing basketball, Thompson also has fun. Like many athletes, Thompson has certain rituals before a game. She has lunch at approximately the same time, takes a nap, puts on her lucky and traditional red lipstick, and puts on her uniform in a certain order. She also has a shooting ritual before warming up. She has become known for wearing deep red lipstick during games, a ritual she began in college. Thompson told Sports Illustrated for Kids, Before a game during my freshman year in college, I left on my lipstick. I played great. I thought, Its the lipstick. Ive worn it ever since.

When not playing basketball, Thompson loves to read books and go shopping. Her favorite book is I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. She cites her parents and older brother as her role models.

While Thompson has said that she has always admired former Lakers star Magic Johnson, she modeled her game after her brother. Thompson is grateful for here success. She told a fan in a WNBA email reply, Ive been put in a very blessed situation and I am not going to take it for granted at all.

Sources

Periodicals

Sports Illustrated for Kids, July 1997.

Other

Additional material for this profile was obtained from the WNBA and Comets web sites at http://www.wnba.com; and http://www.wnba.com\comets

Sandy J. Stiefer

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