Katie Smith will be inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday night, becoming the first ever Lynx player to be enshrined in Springfield.
Smith is one of the greatest to ever play the game. A two-time WNBA champion, a Finals MVP winner, a seven-time All-Star and a three-time Olympic gold medalist, Smith has left an enduring mark on the sport of basketball.
During her time in the WNBA, Smith was known for her knock-down shooting and her physical defense, but more than anything she might be remembered for her leadership. That story is still being written—Smith has transitioned to coaching and currently serves as the head coach of the New York Liberty. When Smith got the news of her selection into the Hall of Fame, she was still in the throes of an incredibly competitive WNBA season. Now, with her season over, she finally gets a chance to enjoy the moment and be celebrated for her accomplishments alongside a star-studded 2018 Hall of Fame class.
During her introduction on Thursday, Smith was as charming as always, thanking the game of basketball for the opportunities it has afforded her and giving props to those who supported the growth of the WNBA from the beginning.
“Who would have thought, basketball, meeting these guys, getting into the Hall, just having a blast traveling the world and making some of the best friendships you could ever have,” she said. “Also [thanks to] those who believed in the WNBA. We have a bunch of folks here who are fans and those who were behind the scenes making that thing happen, which allowed us to have a career here in the States and showcase our talents.”
While she won’t be the last member of the Minnesota Lynx to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, it’s fitting that Smith will be the first. Smith gave the Lynx franchise its first taste of what it felt like to win and the joy of rooting for a superstar. She led them to their first playoff appearance and first playoff win.
The Basketball Hall of Fame doesn’t just honor players for their efforts in professional leagues, however, and Smith’s resume in college and overseas is just as impressive as her performance in the WNBA.
Over the course of her career at Ohio State University, Smith scored more points than any other basketball in Buckeye history—male or female. She won the Big Ten player of the year award, led her team to a Big Ten championship and a national title game and became the first female athlete to have her number retired by the school. In college, Smith averaged 20.8 points per game, adding 5.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
Smith also led the US Women’s National Team to gold medals in three Olympic Games—Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
The 2018 Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be broadcast on NBA TV tonight at 6 p.m. CT. Smith, along with the rest of the class, will speak for about five minutes. She will be presented by Dawn Staley.