USC Athletics honored one of their all-time top-performing women’s basketball players earlier this month when they retired the jersey of the WNBA and Olympic icon Tina Thompson.
Her jersey retirement ceremony took place prior to the USC Women’s basketball season opening game against the Virginia Cavaliers, the program in which Thompson is currently the head coach of.
Fred Williams, her head coach during her time at USC, handed her a framed no. 14 jersey. She is the sixth Woman of Troy to have her jersey retired, joining Cheryl Miller, Pam McGee, Paula McGee, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, and Lisa Leslie. Seeing her number in the rafters of the Galen Center was an “awesome moment” according to Thompson.
“This place, I love it, it’s part of the fabric of who I am,” she said. “So much of what I learned here I’ve used to better myself as a professional.”
Her decorated career would lead her to be inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.
A native of Los Angeles, Thompson attended Morningside High School where she competed in basketball and volleyball. For the Monarchs girls’ basketball team, she scored over 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds.
In her college career, Thompson scored 2,248 points, making her the fifth all-time leading scorer in the program’s history. She etched her name in the Women of Troy record books, coming in fourth in program history in scoring average with 19.7 points per game and third in rebounding average with 10.2.
Thompson made the all-conference first team three consecutive years and shot at 50 percent from the field for the Women of Troy. A major lesson she learned at USC is the importance of hard work.
“It’s work ethic to get accepted here to do well here at the university,” Thompson said. “You have to work, there’s no way to be successful in this environment without putting in the work.”
Upon her departure from USC, Thompson became the inaugural first overall pick of the WNBA in 1997. She was drafted to the Houston Comets and eventually became a member of “The Big Three” along with her then teammates Cooper-Dyke and Sheryl Swoopes.
“Playing with Cynthia with the Comets, we had an amazing run,” Thompson said. “It’s definitely an example of what we do [at USC] and what we produce.”
The Big Three led the Comets to win the first four WNBA championships. In their fourth championship season, Thompson made 16.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. She was a trailblazer in the league in many ways including being a versatile forward with an accurate three-point shot.
She was the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer until 2017 and is currently the second leading scorer. USC senior guard Stephanie Watts noted that Thompson’s jersey retirement was “well deserved.”
“She’s a phenomenal player, she deserves every single accolade,” Watts said. “She meant so much to women’s basketball, just being such an impactful player and so much to USC.”
Thompson was selected to be on the Team USA Women’s basketball team for the 2004 Athens and 2008 Bejing Olympics. In Athens, Team USA had an 8-0 record; Thompson was a starter in all matchups, contributing 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. During the gold medal game against Australia, she led Team USA with 18 points.
Thompson is currently in her second season as head coach of the Cavaliers. Last season, they battled through the fourth-hardest schedule in the nation to have a 12-19 overall record.