SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - It seems connections to Kobe Bryant are popping up in different ways this week, and that includes a special appearance during Westmont College's 5th Annual Women's Leadership Council luncheon Tuesday at the Biltmore.
Tamika Catchings, a childhood friend of Kobe's, was guest speaker.
Tamika spent her first grade in Italy, where her she met her friend, Kobe, who was in second grade. Although they didn't see each other often, they became lifelong friends and like Kobe, Tamika made it a mission to mentor younger players.
At one point she asked the audience, "Why do people have to die before celebrating them?"
Tamika grew from a young girl with hearing issues and incidents of teasing and bullying, to a highly successful WNBA player.
The 41-year-old retired pro-basketball player has a long list of accomplishments and accolades, including a 15-year career playing for the Indiana Fever of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), an NCAA championship at Tennessee, and was on four Olympic gold-winning USA basketball teams. She is currently the General Manager of Indiana.
During her speech, Tamika stressed the importance of faith, trust, loyalty and living life to its fullest. She said one of her favorite words is "believe" and urged the audience to encourage younger girls and teens to believe in themselves and their dreams.
"People always ask about basketball and I always say, 'Basketball is what I do but it's not who I am.' But, it's all the other things when you look out at a room like this, not just the younger players but to all of us, it's a reminder about leaving a legacy. A reminder of living your life to the fullest."
Tamika started the Catch the Stars Program, which helps underprivileged children reach their full potential in sports and academics.
Tuesday's appearance was Tamika's first since Kobe's tragic death, and the audience was grateful.
"She's just the gold standard not just of athletes but of people," said Kirsten Moore, Director of the Women's Leadership Initiative at Westmont and the Women's Basketball Head Coach. "Her character is second to none. She's all about giving back and she really is what our mission is about -- inspiring the youth to really dig into their skills and their talents and to maximize them not just for themselves, but to maximize them to impact other people, and she's done that with her entire life."
"What she talked about was time and spending time with the people you care about and love," said Alyssa Hernandez, a guest student from San Marcos High School and student leader. "I realized I need to work on spending time with my family, enjoying the time that I have with them."
For more information about Tamika Catchings, click the following link: https://www.tamikacatchings.com/catch-the-stars-foundation/
For more information about Westmont College, click here: https://www.westmont.edu/