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September 18, 2013 at 1:51 PM

Transcript: WNBA All-Star Tina Thompson’s farewell speech at KeyArena


All-Star Tina Thompson and her son Dyllan (seated) react to Storm teammates wearing her signature lipstick and jersey as part of her WNBA retirement ceremony at KeyArena on Sept. 14, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Storm season-ticket holder Amy Ridgeway of Lacey, WA

A Storm employee joked Saturday’s ceremony to honor Tina Thompson’s 17-year WNBA career was a trial run for when Storm All-Stars Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird retire. Then crabby journalists and employees with deadlines discussed tips we’d give Force 10 Hoops, the team’s ownership group, for those pending celebrations, mainly a Sunday afternoon game so it didn’t interfere with said deadlines. Then, again, did anyone expect Thompson to speak for 30 minutes?

Legends Gary Payton and Dawn Staley didn’t talk that long, combined, when inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. But, as I joked Saturday, when you’ve played 17 years and haven’t gloated about your career once, you have a lot to get off your chest. So, here’s what Thompson told the crowd of 8,978 at KeyArena because I’m certain she won’t repeat herself in this manner. The applause breaks are from the crowd, not Thompson:

StormCrazies, you guys are amazing! [applause] It’s been a pleasure playing in front of you guys for two seasons. I know I’ve said it many times, that it’s really difficult to come here as an opponent and play against you guys, it’s been great for two years to have you guys on my side. [applause]

When I started this journey a long time ago, I never could have imagined that this would be my ending. That I would be able to accomplish, like, so many things. I just played basketball because I loved it. I just played basketball because my brother, I thought he was pretty amazing, and he influenced me. He told me a couple things really early-on that if I was going to play the game, to play it with love and passion and never to cheat it. So, T.J., I hope I did you proud and that I [applause] and that I didn’t cheat the game that I love.

I’d like to say to my teammates…this has been. Man, this has been the best season of my career. [applause] Coming to Seattle, my expectations were so different. I mean, when you have Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson on your side, your expectations can be very high. But injuries and a lot of things just kind of happen and didn’t allow us to spend the time together that I thought. But, the experience was amazing in a sense that it put the rest of us in a situation that we probably haven’t been in before. We were faced with a lot of trials and kind of put in a place where we had to basically grind it out. Seriously. Really. It was a grind. It made me appreciate my teammates even more because it allowed me to see the true heart and soul of the people that I was playing with. [applause] Not only are they really amazing people off the court, but they are just some tough chicks on the court! And I appreciate you guys! [applause] So, I’d just like to say, if you guys can bear with me, there are so many great people here that have been a part of this journey with me and are really an inspiration in my life, I want to thank them first.

T, [Storm G Tanisha Wright] where are you? She’s back there? T! [applause] I’ve said this with all due respect in a sense that I’ve only had one player in my career that stepped on the court, I knew exactly what she was going to bring every single time. And that was Cynthia Cooper. So, now I can say that I have two. [applause] Because these two seasons, the one thing I could always count on was your toughness, your leadership, your ability to push through the tough times, those knees aching — we’ve been there, you know! — so, I just want to say that I appreciate you and I appreciate your consistency, thank you. [applause]

Camille [Little]. Coming here, you were probably the first person that reached out to me and just kind of welcoming me to Seattle. Coming here, we had a long, four-hour lunch and that lunch turned into many lunches after that and our relationship blossomed really quickly. You’ve become one of my closest friends really fast and I appreciate who you are. You’re probably one of the purest people that I know just being very honest and very straight forward. Sometimes a little mean but it’s kind of one of those things where you kind of get what you see with you and that I appreciate. It’s a little like myself. [laughs, applause]

Noe [Noelle Quinn] where are you?! [applause] Noe, you’re one of the most serious people that I know and honest and I think that’s kind of your gift as a person, in a sense. I love you like you’re my sister and I’m glad I was able to spend a season with you. I know you better than most people, so let them see the dog that you have in you. Seriously. She has it in her, you guys just haven’t seen it, yet. [applause]

Where are my cubs? Shekinna [Stricklen], Alysha [Clark], I’ve see you guys grow so much in such a short period of time and this season I’ve seen you guys step up really, really step up, you know. You guys were in a position that you probably weren’t put in before. Shekinna, I would say to you that you have all of the potential in the world. But I want you to take the potential and turn it into purpose. If you play with a purpose every time you step in between the lines, you’ll be a All-Star. You could potentially be one of the best players in this league because of your game. Yes, you will. [applause]

Alysha…I want you to unpack your bags. [applause] Seriously. [applause] I knew she was going to make me cry, she’s such a baby. [applause] You belong here! [applause] You’re one of the hardest working players that I’ve played with, so if you exude the confidence in yourself that we have in you, you’ll be here as long as you want to. [applause]

Ashley! [applause] Everybody knows Ashley [Robinson]. She makes the point to, I don’t even know if she does it on purpose, but when she enters the room, her spirit and her presence is felt immediately and she did that here. She came in a little later than all of us, but as soon as she came into the locker room, we felt her heart and her spirit. She’s one of the best teammates that I’ve played with in a sense that whether she plays, like, two minutes or she plays 20, she’s your biggest cheerleader and the first person to give you a hi-five and tell you something really good about yourself. Make you feel good in moments that you probably shouldn’t. Ashley, I appreciate the love that you give all of us. [applause]

And Joslyn [Tinkle] and Tianna Hawkins, this year, you know, you guys are rookies, so you guys are kind of just getting your feet wet. But you guys have amazing examples in front of you in players that have played in all aspects of the game and have had success. So, what I say to you guys is be a sponge and pick up every single thing that you can. I can say that I’ve probably learned something from every player that I’ve played with and every single coach that I’ve had. Sometimes you kind of have to filter and take in the things that suit you best but there’s always an opportunity to learn. So, I just ask or push you guys just to continue to work as hard as you possibly can and you’ll get as much from this game as you give. That’s a promise. [applause]

Birdy! [applause] Sue [Bird], we’ve experience so much success together. A lot of hardware whether it be Olympic gold medals, a couple of EuroLeague championships, Russian league championships, All-Stars, I could go on for a long time. The thing I treasure most about you; you and Diana [Taurasi] is that you guys treated my son with so much kindness. So much. He was a little boy kind of traveling with us and we were all in that very foreign place [overseas] and you guys were his first friends. Believe it or not, they were. [applause] He learned so much just sort of like hanging out with you guys, just spending time with you guys. I just appreciate the fact that you guys just kind of took the time and just hung out with him and allowed him to just be a part of your lives. It’s not easy. It wasn’t easy for me to have a 2-year-old, 3-year-old just kind of traveling around with us. The fact that you guys embraced him so much is great. Diana is not here, but I appreciate you not swearing so much with Dyllan around. [applause] I know that’s a really hard thing for you to do.

I think I kind of missed someone. Or, actually I didn’t miss them, but I just kind of stumbled over them a minute. It’s hard to believe, but you know she’s a little small in stature but with a really big heart. Meek! [Temeka Johnson] I told you before, I love you and I love, the love that you’ve given me. You came in and you kind of took this team and led us. It’s your first time here and it’s not easy, especially for a point guard. [applause] Especially in a situation or a franchise where expectations at the position is very high. Seriously. It is. It’s not an easy situation to step into but, you weren’t worried, you know? That’s one of the things that I love about you. People, at times, seen to overlook you and I think that’s what you like. You’re able to fight and I appreciate your fight, so thank you for coming in and leading us into the postseason. [applause] Because it’s not a secret that not many people expected us to be here but we are so deal with it. [applause]

There are so many people, I could talk forever, but we have amazing staff here in Seattle. I’m not just talking about our coaching staff and our owners because those are the people that you guys probably see the most.  But there are so many people behind the scenes that sometimes are little annoying because they’re requesting appearances after you get off a plane or got done with practice and although we’re there, it’s not our finest moments because we have to get up for them. I want to thank everyone in the Storm organization for doing the things that you do to get people in the seats and getting the word out and let’s them know that we’re here and there are some good things going on here in KeyArena. [applause]

Brian [Agler], Jenny [Boucek] and Nancy [Darsch], I know Nancy is somewhere hiding. There she is. You guys work so hard and you guys prepare so much. You guys prepare in a sense that sometimes we feel we’re a little over prepared. No, seriously, they really work that hard. But I would rather be over prepared than under prepared, so I appreciate you guys working so much on all of the detail work and things that you do to allow us to compete at the level we do. Thank you so much for working as hard as you guys do. [applause]

I feel really lucky in my career in Houston and LA and now in Seattle to have trainers that were really good and very professional and took care of us well. Especially later in my career, you know, I was in the training room a lot more than I would probably want to be, so Tom [Spencer], I ‘d like to thank you for being available all the time 24/7 to keep us on the court and to keep us going. [applause] Your personality suits your job because you’re extremely giving and you let things sort of roll off your shoulder even in our so not so great moments when we’re hurting or something just happened and we’re not, uh, probably the best that we could possibly be or using the best language. You deal with a lot to do the things you need to do to get us ready to make sure we’re OK, so I appreciate you so much Tom and I appreciate you putting in the time and the effort to keep me playing as much as I’ve been able to. So, thank you so much. [applause]

One of the people that was a part of my really, really early career when I was probably about 9- or 10-years old is a person by the name of Al [garbled] He was worked at the recreation center that I played at and he had an organization that allowed the younger kids to go to the beach early in the morning. We had to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and we would run the beach, get in shape and just kind of work on our skills. And I was the only girl that played at my recreation center amongst a lot of guys. Al was kind enough to include me in that group and allowed me to work, to be able to, I guess become the best basketball player that I could be. So, Al is here today and I just want to thank him for that really important part of my career. [applause]

So, some of my family is here and my closest friends. My cousin Brandy [sic] is here, my favorite cousin, one of my best girlfriends, we were roommates in college [USC], sort of a disaster. But when she moved out, we became the best of friends. And we’ve been friends for over 20 years now and I just absolutely love you to death you and Brandy [sic]. I just appreciate the support that you’ve given me even though you’re not really a sports enthusiast. So, really early on she would tell her friends how her close friend scored the most “field goals” in basketball game the other day. [laughs, applause] I really appreciate you guys coming here. One of my younger sisters is here, so she knows the hours that we’ve put in for basketball and in my career and she’s been one of my biggest fans throughout my career, so, I love you and I appreciate you being here and  coming here and it’s pretty special. [applause]

My Dad was kind of like the wild hair in the bunch. He’s the loudest, most opinionated and sometimes he drives me absolutely nuts but I appreciate the fact that you stand up for me and you fight for me and you cheer for me in situations where most people weren’t. You know, you kind of took on a crowd and made sure that my team and I was getting the most love that I possibly could so I appreciate you being a rebel and supporting me throughout my career and I love you. [applause]

You [Mother] and Dyllan, you guys have traveled with me. I’ve probably dragged you guys all across the world but I can’t remember a moment where I looked in the stands or courtside and I didn’t see your face or Dyllan, his face, I appreciate you grinding it out with me and traveling  with me and allowing me to take Dyllan everywhere I possibly could.  Your sacrifice is amazing, I appreciate you and I love you. [applause]

Not many people know who Ilene Hauser is, Ilene is my Nike rep. Most people refer to as the “Nike Lady,” but I’ve been a Nike athlete my entire career and I wouldn’t change that for the world. They’ve taken really, really good care of me and Ilene works tirelessly in making sure that myself, Sue and a lot of athletes in the WNBA have the best shoes and products and things that we need to perform. So, Ilene I thank you for working sometimes without the reward that most people get for the moments that we have and just continuing to be a voice for women’s basketball and making sure we get equal [garbled] [applause] Thank you so much for being there.

I don’t see Bonnie and Todd but Bonnie and Todd [sic] and Renee [Brown]  [they] are a part of the WNBA. They’ve been here probably as long as  I’ve been here and we’ve helped put some bricks in the foundation of the WNBA and I want to say that I appreciate you guys. I appreciate you guys being patient and being tolerant of us because some times we can be a hard bunch to deal with but I appreciate you guys continuing to fight for the WNBA and to continue to put us in the position to grow. I think the WNBA is the best kept secret in the world in a sense that [applause] in every single season that I’ve been a part of, this product has been amazing and the level of competition has been very high. And I say to anyone, if this is your first WNBA game, I know that you’ll be back because every time that someone comes into an arena of the WNBA, they get to experience the level of play and the passion that we have for the game that we love, you absolutely have to come back. So, continue to come out and support us. [applause]

[garbled] My teammates and the Tulsa Shock over there, I think that you guys are the future of the WNBA. Continue to work and play as hard as you do, you guys will turn those really close loses into wins so keep working. [applause]

Eric and Aaron [Goodwin] are part of the Goodwin Sports Management. They’re my agents but they’re also my best friends in a sense that they work really hard for their athletes but that’s not the reason why I love them so much. I love them because they love the people that they represent and they work really hard. You guys have become two of my closest friends and I love the fact that you’re honest with me and you tell me the truth, but you support me in every single moment that you possibly can so thank you so much for being here Aaron, Eric, Alexis, Erin and Ms. Regina [sic], thank you guys so much and supporting me the way that you do [applause]

I have two more people that I want to talk about. One of them is Cynthia Cooper [applause] You guys know who she is. Cynthia was my first example of what a professional was in a sense that, true story, coming to the WNBA in 1997, Cynthia Cooper had played more basketball professionally than I had played in my entire life. And she was still a multiple-MVP, a four-time champion and an Olympian [applause] all at the age of 34 and on? I know she doesn’t want me to talk about her age. But, it’s a really amazing feat, so considering that me coming in at 21, 22-years-old and Cynthia being 34…She’s done most of her work overseas but coming to the WNBA and kind of, gosh, coming in a blazing and putting on a show most people won’t be able to live up to, I appreciate you for coming in early and staying late and showing me an example of what it was to be a professional and to approach the game the way that you did. Thank you. [applause]

I talked a little bit earlier about my mother and Tommy, T.J. is what we called him and the impact he had in my life. He’s a little low-key much like I am in a sense that he doesn’t like much attention, he always kind of sits in the back. After each game he sends me a text message or something like that about what I did good and what I could have done better. But I just want to say your introduction to this game is one that I appreciate in a sense that I didn’t initially know that I would love it the way that I do. But your challenge is what made me work really hard at it. But as I continued to play and as I continued to work and work and work, I learned to love it the way that you do. So, I just thank you for always being there in my corner, for supporting me and for telling me more of the bad than the good because it kept me working. So, uh, thanks for being there. I love you. [applause]

I’ve done so much and we can talk about the accolades and all of the stuff that I’ve done up to this point, but if you guys know me well or even not so well, you know my greatest accomplishment and my greatest joy is this little guy right here. [applause] Dyllan’s ability from a very young age to just adapt and really be in every single situation that we were in — whether it’s travel or waking up early or being on an airplane or sitting in an airport for hours at a time or traveling from country to country — gave me the opportunity to continue to do what I love to do and that’s to play basketball. Had he not been so easy and so adaptable to all of the circumstances that we had to deal with in order to live; in order to find success, I probably wouldn’t be here today. So, Dyllan, I want to thank you for making the sacrifice that you have [applause] For being such an amazing kid [applause] For loving me unconditionally, as I do you, and for cheering me and my teammates on when we win or when we lose and making us smile in those moments. You’re the best kid ever and I love you. [applause]

Force 10, Seattle Storm, StormCrazies [applause] Wolfpack, grr, Cubs, thank you guys for being part of this journey. The WNBA, all the fans that support us so much; it has been my pleasure and it has been an absolute blessing. Thank you so much. [applause]

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