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Facts about Tamika Catchings — Loving Husband, Hearing Impairment, Childhood, and More

Edduin Carvajal
May 22, 2021
08:30 A.M.

Tamika Catchings is arguably one of the best women’s basketball players in history, but her childhood was quite challenging. Her hearing disability made her a target for bullies.


In April 2011, Tamika Catchings shared some details on her life growing up, including the hearing impairment she was born with, which affected both ears.

When she was only three years old, her dad, former NBA player Harvey Catchings, took her to a playground. Once there, he called out her name, but she didn’t respond. He did it a few more times, but Tamika wouldn’t turn back.

Tamika Catchings during the McDonald's NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on February 16, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada | Photo: Getty Images

Tamika Catchings during the McDonald's NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on February 16, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada | Photo: Getty Images


Since Tamika’s older brother had been diagnosed with a hearing disability a few years earlier, her parents quickly identified the signs and took her to the doctor. That’s when they learned she was born with a hearing impairment, too.


Her difficulties improved with her “big, clunky” hearing aids, but other kids would frequently tease her. If that wasn’t enough, her hearing disability also caused speech problems.


Tamika pointed out that each day was a challenge, and she kept wishing to be “normal.” When she was in third grade, she got sick of all the bullying and threw her hearing aids away.

Her parents were understandably less than thrilled, and they decided to teach her a lesson by refusing to replace them. From that point on, her life changed for the better.



Without her hearing aid, Tamika began reading lips, sitting in the front row, reading her textbooks ahead to know what the class was about, and staying after class to clarify her doubts with the teacher.

Apart from that, she found solace in sports as she would overwork her bullies and everybody else. After a while, she got better than them in soccer and basketball.


When Tamika was 15 years old, she was named Illinois' Ms. Basketball, making her the youngest in the state's history. However, things got complicated when her parents parted ways.

She moved to Texas with her mom, but her sister stayed in Illinois with her dad. In the late 90s, Tamika began studying at the University of Tennessee and, as expected, joined the basketball team.


Her coach and trainer convinced her to wear hearing aids again and see the university’s speech therapists, which Tamika described as “another turning point” in her life.

Tamika once admitted they would never play for real against each other.



Catchings’s career as a professional basketball player began in 2001 when the Indiana Fever selected her in the first round of the WNBA Draft.

She retired in 2016 with 11 WNBA All-Star games, 5 Defensive Player of the Year titles, 4 Olympic gold medals, 1 WNBA championship, and many more accolades.


Only one year later, Indiana Fever retired her No. 24 jersey in an emotional ceremony, proving just how important and influential she was for both the team and women’s basketball itself.

More great news came in May 2021 as Tamika Catchings was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame along with Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett.



Parnell Smith, who was part of the University of Buffalo’s basketball team and eventually played professionally in Europe for five seasons, met Tamika in July 2014 after one of her games in Los Angeles.

The couple hit it off right after a mutual friend introduced them. They got engaged only a year later in what Tamika described as the “epitome of great love.” On February 7, 2016, they tied the knot in a private ceremony in Indianapolis.

While they were both professional athletes, Tamika once admitted they would never play for real against each other as that could kill their relationship.

Tamika Catchings also said she and Parnell Smith, a project coordinator for a communications company, would like to have children even through adoption. So far, they have not welcomed any kids but are still going strong.

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