Ask Tina Thompson a question and you’re going to get an honest answer, even if it cuts like an elbow from the power forward when she’s going for a rebound.
How did she feel about the final regular-season game of her 17-year career, an 85-73 win against Tulsa?
“I’ve played thousands of games, and at some point I knew I was going to have a final game,” said Thompson, the WNBA’s original No. 1 overall draft pick in 1997. “I’ve had so many big games and great games and championship games, my final game against Tulsa — it’s not comparable to those.
“I know everyone wants me to have this big, amazing speech or comment about it. I don’t. Maybe if we weren’t going to the playoffs, and that was my final game ever, then maybe. No, I wouldn’t feel any different from now.”
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No one at the Saturday-night game was surprised. Seattle had clinched a WNBA-record 10th consecutive playoff berth in August. The fans knew Thompson would play in at least two more games, facing Minnesota in the Western Conference’s best-of-three opening round series this week.
But due to a scheduling conflict with Seattle Center, the Storm will not play its postseason matchup at KeyArena for the first time. The team was forced to play Game 2 at the Tacoma Dome on Sunday.
So, there was a bit of a historic “finale” aspect to the Tulsa game. But Thompson forced a turnover and scored two deep three-pointers within the first two minutes of the game to dispel any thought she’d have jitters during the celebration of her career. She played 29 minutes, finishing with a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds.
And fans grabbed the moment to gush for the four-time WNBA champion as if it were Valentine’s Day. Co-workers Debra Mensing, 57, and Dave Schrup, 54, literally sealed it with a kiss, using the press at the printing office where they work to make posters adorned with massive red lips — symbolizing Thompson’s signature game-day lipstick — with the inscription: “Tina Thompson All-Star ~ All American ~ All Everything. Thanks for 17 Years of Greatness.”
Their modest batch of 200 posters was gone in minutes. Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel shamelessly snagged a stack of 10.
A longtime Storm season-ticket holder, Mensing didn’t care that Thompson only played two years for the Storm, nor that Thompson helped the defunct Houston Comets team prevent a 20-14 Seattle squad from following up its 2004 title with a repeat in 2005. Or that the Comets handed the Storm a then-record 30-point loss in Seattle’s inaugural KeyArena season-opener in June 2000.
“We’re fans of athleticism and talent and she’s got it all,” Schrup said. “And then watching her kid, Dyllan. She’s the whole package — the mom, the athlete. It’s just a blast.”
Dyllan, 8, is a big reason why Thompson announced her retirement in June. He’s beginning his own athletic career, and home schooling while traipsing the globe to play is growing tiresome for Thompson, 38.
But Dyllan asked his mother play one more season, Thompson obliging with the same flare that made her a nine-time WNBA All-Star. With Storm All-Stars Lauren Jackson (hamstring) and Sue Bird (knee) out due to offseason surgeries, Thompson was the team’s leading scorer (13.8 points) in guiding Seattle to a 17-17 finish. The mark is one better than with Jackson and Bird during an injury-laden 2012 run.
Public address announcer Matt Pitman started a callback cheer of her name, the crowd belting “THOMP-SON” to his “TI-NA.” When the future Hall of Famer took her first respite with 32.6 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, the Storm was up 21-10 and she was showered with her second of five standing ovations during the night.
“I’m not going to make something a possible sad moment because we absolutely need to be at our best to win and continue on,” Thompson said of her remaining games. “If you worked hard to be in a certain position, then you’re prepared. Go out and do it.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org