When most sports stars decide to retire, they call a press conference and share the news with the world. But not Katie Smith. The WNBA great announced on May 30 that this season would be her last by replying to a tweet.
The 39-year-old New York Liberty guard has built an impressive resume. Smith has scored 6,272 points in 17 seasons as a pro, and is the WNBA’s second all-time leading scorer behind Tina Thompson. She also won three Olympic gold medals for Team USA in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
Smith won three American Basketball Association titles with the Columbus Quest. But when the WNBA was formed in 1996, she made the jump to the new league as a member of the Minnesota Lynx.
In the WNBA, Smith won two championships as a member of the Detroit Shock in 2006 and 2008, was the Finals MVP in 2008, and made six all-star appearances. Smith averaged 18 points per game in four of her first seven seasons, and in 2001 led the league in scoring with 23.1 points per game. This season, Smith is more of a role player, averaging 4.7 points, 2.0 assists and 23.2 minutes per game.
Smith’s success began as an Ohio State Buckeye. As a freshman, she averaged 18.1 points and led OSU to the national championship game, where they fell to Sheryl Swoopes and Texas Tech. She graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,578 points. At Ohio State, Smith was a two-time All-America selection, played in two NCAA tournaments, and was the first female athlete in school history to have her number retired.
Over the past two WNBA seasons, Smith has returned to Ohio State as a graduate assistant. She is close to finishing a master’s program to become a dietician.
But that doesn’t mean she’s leaving basketball behind when her playing days are over. Smith has had a close relationship with her current coach Bill Laimbeer, and has said in interviews that her ultimate goal is to be a head coach, either at the professional or collegiate level.
Katie Smith began playing basketball with a boy’s team in fifth grade. At the time, she probably didn’t think she would end her professional career as one of the all-time greats – but that’s just what she’s doing.
Photo: Katie Smith in a game from 2003, when she played for the Minnesota Lynx (D. Clarke Evans/WNBAE via Getty Images)