Tina Thompson receives Hall of Fame selection

Justin Martinez

Editor's note: This story has been updated since its original publication on Feb. 12. 

Texas head coach Karen Aston rarely places a team film session on hold for a phone call, but she made an exception Monday night.

“Someone needs to talk to you,” Aston said, handing the phone over to associate head coach Tina Thompson.

Thompson cautiously took the phone, unsure what to do next.

“Want me to stay in here?” Thompson asked Aston.

“Yeah. She just said she had something real quick.”

Thompson put the phone on speaker and gave a hesitant “hello.” Carol Stiff of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Directors replied with a straightforward statement: Thompson had just been inducted.

Applause from the players filled the room as Thompson sat in her seat, a smile spreading across her face.

For Thompson, Monday’s induction signified the highest honor for a person whose life has revolved around basketball. 

“I am extremely honored to be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame,” Thompson said in a statement. “It is a true privilege to have my name reside in the home where so many of the greats of our game are housed. As a young girl, little did I know how good old-fashioned hard work and passion would affect my life in such a grand way. Fabulous indeed.”

Thompson fell in love with the game of basketball on the streets of Inglewood, California, spending most of her childhood playing at Robertson Park in West Los Angeles.

The future phenom grew up with a passion to be great, thanks in part to a friendly sibling rivalry with her older brother, Tommy Thompson Jr.

“We were very competitive as kids,” Thompson said. “We would even compete at handwriting to see who had the best penmanship. It was that serious. I would, for sure, say the kind of competitive nature that my brother had then became a part of my personality.”

That competitiveness molded Thompson into an unstoppable force on the court. The 6-foot-2-inch small forward recorded more than 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds during her time at Morningside High School before committing to USC, where she graduated in 1997.

Thompson launched her illustrious 17-year professional career the following summer, going No. 1 overall in the inaugural WNBA Draft and spending her first 12 seasons with the Houston Comets. Thompson had an immediate impact, helping lead her team to four straight championships in her first four seasons.

Thompson’s ability to score from all spots on the court quickly elevated her to elite status, becoming a nine-time All-Star and three-time All-WNBA First-Team member.

The emerging star reached a milestone in 2004, representing Team USA in the Olympics in Athens, Greece, and then in 2008 in Beijing, China. Thompson shined on the world’s biggest stage, helping win two Olympic gold medals in her two appearances.

After playing for the Los Angeles Sparks from 2009–11, Thompson finished her WNBA career with the Seattle Storm in 2013 at the age of 38. Thompson left behind a legacy when she walked away from the league, standing as the only WNBA player at the time to have 7,000 points and 3,000 rebounds in her career.

With a laundry list of accomplishments during her player career, Thompson has since turned her focus to coaching.

The WNBA legend walked onto the 40 Acres on May 18, 2015, joining the Texas staff as an assistant coach. Thompson has thrived on the sideline since then, becoming the associate head coach for the Longhorns on Sept. 18, 2017.

“I think we all feel blessed to have Tina be a part of the Longhorn family,” Aston said. “I say this all of the time, head coaches are only really as good as their assistant coaches, and Tina does a great job.”

But perhaps Thompson’s biggest contribution to the Longhorns comes off the court. The former WNBA champ has built a number of strong relationships with her players, helping them improve not only as athletes but as people.

“(Thompson) is like my mom away from home,” junior forward Jordan Hosey said. “She’ll tell me every day, ‘Jordy, do you.’ When she tells me something, I know it’s coming from a good place, so she’ll never lead me down the wrong path.”

Now 43 years old, the final chapter for Thompson is still far from sight. Thompson plans to continue climbing the coaching ranks in hopes of one day becoming a head coach. 

It’ll be a whole new challenge in itself, but she’s ready to attack it with the same drive that’s gotten her this far.

“I’m a leader by nature,” Thompson said. “Anything that I go into, I wanted to ultimately reach the pinnacle of that, so head coaching is something that for sure is in my future. Where, I don’t know exactly, but it’s definitely something that I strive for.”

The 2018 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend is scheduled for June 8–10 in Knoxville, Tennessee.