As a native Hoosier, basketball has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve played basketball in good weather and bad. Rain or shine. Sun or snow. In the blistering sun and dark of night. I grew up on stories of Milan high school’s miracle win and IU’s tradition of excellence. I remember watching Reggie Miller score eight points in nine seconds at the end of a playoff game in 1995 to beat New York. In short, basketball is a part of Hoosier culture.
Unfortunately, Indiana basketball has gone through a drought. The Pacers fell apart after Reggie Miller retired, our college programs suffered for years before Butler began to give us some excitement, and high school basketball has been dominated by large powerhouse schools. All of this had a detrimental effect on the spirit of Indiana basketball until the last couple of years.
The Pacers, who have been struggling on and off the court for years, have finally begun to rebound. The move to Frank Vogel changed the team and began to process restore the Pacers to the respectable team Hoosiers have been missing. Last season saw the Pacers’ first winning season in years and the first playoff berth since the year after Reggie retired. Recently, Butler began giving Indiana basketball fans something to cheer for in the NCAA tournament. They made it to the national championship in 2010 and 2011. Last year, IU made it to the regional semifinals after an exciting season. This year, IU has been ranked first in the preseason coaches’ poll. The anticipation in the state is almost palpable.
Perhaps the most exciting news came from an often-ignored source. In 2001, the Indiana Fever drafted a player that would change the face of the franchise. Over the last fourteen years, Tamika Catchings has solidified her legacy in women’s basketball with an NCAA Championship in 1998 and 3 Olympic gold medals. However, a WNBA Championship has always eluded her. The Fever came close in 2009 when they were leading the championship series 2-1 against Phoenix. That dream slipped away as the Mercury came back to defeat the Fever in game five. This year was different. With their second leading scorer missing most of the series with an injury, Catchings and the Fever won the championship 3-1 against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx. Catchings was later named the finals MVP and the Indiana Fever have now brought a basketball championship back to Indiana.
As a proud Hoosier, I want to congratulate the Indiana Fever, their coaching staff, and their on-court leader Tamika Catchings. I also want to thank them all for showing what it means to be a basketball player in Indiana.