Daily vitamins have helped.
So has a healthy diet and a relentless fitness regimen.
But the seemingly ageless Tina Thompson is still 38, no matter how many times she denies herself fast-food French fries. In WNBA time, or by any standards for a professional athlete, that's pretty old.
What hasn't gotten old is Thompson's game, which is why the announcement of her retirement at the end of this season is sad for the WNBA, even though, at the same time, it is completely understandable and somewhat expected.
Thompson is in the midst of her 17th WNBA season and will be in Chicago on Tuesday for likely the last time as a player as her Seattle Storm takes on the Sky at Allstate Arena (7 p.m., U Too). The 6-foot-2 forward was a rookie in 1997, the WNBA's inaugural season, and was the league's first draft pick.
That makes Thompson the one and only player to have played in all 17 WNBA seasons.
“I'm just simply tired,” Thompson said on a teleconference Thursday when asked why she picked this season to retire. “I'm tired of the long days. I'm just at a place where I want to do something a little less strenuous, both mentally and physically.”
And yet, it seems as if the grind has hardly taken a toll on Thompson, who is also looking forward to spending more time with her 8-year-old son Dyllan.
She is the picture of longevity and durability and productivity. She has played in 470 games, the most in WNBA history. That's almost 30 games per season in a league that plays a 34-game schedule.
Along the way, Thompson has logged 15,333 minutes and 7,124 points, both the most in WNBA history.
Even now, in her 17th and final season, she is leading her team in scoring at 14.4 points per game while playing a hefty 27.5 minutes per game.
“Part of it is good old-fashioned hard work, making sure that I maintain a level of fitness throughout the year, as well as just eating very well. I don't eat junk food or fast food or anything like that,” said Thompson, explaining the secret to her longevity. “I take a lot of vitamins. I take vitamins every day. For the most part I just take care of the product which is my body. I make sure that I'm in a fit place, a healthy place so that I'm able to just maintain.”
What Thompson, an eight-time all-star, has maintained is a standard of excellence that goes beyond just personal statistics.
Besides all the points, rebounds and minutes she's rolled up, Thompson has also been a part of four WNBA titles, including the league's first with Houston in 1997.
Thompson played 12 seasons in Houston before landing in Los Angeles. She played three seasons with the Sparks and has spent the last two seasons with the Storm. In all, she's been on 12 playoff teams.
“I've had a very long career, a very successful one, I've been able to achieve some things that I never even thought I would be able to do,” said Thompson, who is interested in sports broadcasting or even law school in the future. “I'm comfortable with where I am right now. Maybe on the last day (of the season emotions will be high), but right now it's not an emotional thing at all.
“I'm really happy that I've been able to play this long. No one in the WNBA has been able to do it thus far. So, I'm really OK and comfortable with where I'm at right now.”
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