May 23, 2022
Sights and sounds from the Indiana Fever 2012 WNBA Championship tenth anniversary celebration
Taking you inside the championship celebration ceremonies
INDIANAPOLIS — The buzzer sounded in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Fever had just won Game 4 against the Minnesota Lynx 87-78. Erlana Larkins threw the basketball straight up in the air.
The Fever had won the 2012 WNBA championship. It was time to celebrate. It was a triumphant run from the team that featured a comeback win in the first and second rounds before upsetting the 2011 champion Minnesota Lynx. Indiana showed resilience at every turn and captured the first and only title for the franchise.
This past weekend, it was time to celebrate again. The Indiana Fever franchise honored the 2012 championship team one decade later with a ceremony to celebrate their achievement. And several members of the team and coaching staff were eager to be a part of it.
“[We] really haven’t skipped a beat,” guard Jeanette Pohlen said of the 2012 team. “When they contacted us about wanting to come in and celebrate, I think we all were just like, ‘yeah, let’s do this!'”
Over a dozen members of the 2012 championship group descended upon Indianapolis for the ceremony, which took place over multiple days before a formal celebration during an Indiana Fever game versus the Connecticut Sun. Fittingly, Indiana had to take down number one seeded Connecticut in the Conference Finals on the way to the finals in 2012. Equally fitting is that the 2022 Fever and the 2012 Fever aren’t all that different — obviously, one team ranks more favorably in terms of talent. But both groups are comprised of multiple younger players mixed in with some key, longstanding veterans. So it was the perfect game to remember the championship-winning squad from ten years ago. And it all took place on the same court that the Tamika Catchings-led team won it all.
Speaking of Catchings, the Hall of Famer was in attendance. The last three months have been the start of a new era for Indiana in part because Catchings stepped down from her post as General Manager of the team in February. Prior to that, Catchings and the Fever organization were essentially synonymous for two decades.
“It has been interesting, needless to stay,” Catchings said about being away from the team. “I’m excited for [the team] and even for me personally, just trying to figure out whatever that next step looks like wherever my life, my journey goes.”
Members of the 2012 team got together for dinner the night before the game and many of them stayed for a while after the game on Sunday. The commemoration lasted for nearly 24 hours in total. And Gainbridge Fieldhouse was ready to play host.
In the main concourse, usually, there are banners of the currently-playing professional team — either the Pacers or the Fever — hanging just above where fans scan their tickets to enter the arena. For this game, though, those decorations were changed:
Not far from the entry pavilion, maybe 100 feet to the left of the above photo, sat the championship trophy the Indiana Fever earned that season. Fans could take a photo with the hardware during parts of the game.
One story below the trophy was where all the action was happening. Members of the 2012 team were spending their moments together in the CareSource Courtside Club, where food and decorations were everywhere.
The Courtside Club is perfectly placed in the arena for an event like this. If one were to leave from the south exit of the dining area, they would find themselves on the court where game action was taking place. Out the other end of the room is the Fever’s facilities, including the locker room where players prep for games. Because the Courtside Club is directly between those locations, current members of the Fever were trickling through the event often, which made for a seamless blend of old and new.
Every time someone new would show up, there were hugs, excitement and laughter. It wasn’t easy to imagine that this same crew was all together the night before, given how thrilled they were to be seeing each other again. But that’s what a championship bond looks like.
“You get this group together and you could have sworn it was 2012 again,” former Fever guard and now Seattle Storm guard Briann January said. “My heart has been so happy since I touched down yesterday because this is a very special group and I love each and every one of them.”
The chatter amongst players was split between catching up and reliving the title run. Some of them still spend time in the greater Indianapolis area and others live on different continents, so there was much to discuss. “Picking on each other, re-hashing stories, laughing at some of the things we went through,” January detailed the team’s conversations. She tearfully shared that the 2012 Fever have created a lifetime bond.
Current Indiana Fever interim General Manager Lin Dunn was the team’s head coach back then, so she was on double duty for this game. Pregame she spent some time with the squad that she coached to a title. She talked about the many moments of the team’s playoff run that gave her chills, including the time Katie Douglas checked into the game, injury and all, with three seconds to go in the final battle versus Minnesota, as well as when Shavonte Zellous hit a game-winner against Connecticut in the second round.
During the game, though, she sat in her usual spot on the East end of the court near the Fever bench. Beside her on one side, at times, was Pacers assistant coach Jenny Boucek, who was an assistant coach for the Seattle Storm during the 2012 WNBA season. The Storm forced the Lynx to a win-or-go-home Game 3 in the first round that year before falling to the eventual runner-ups.
On Dunn’s other side was the mastermind who built the championship team — then Fever GM Kelly Krauskopf. Krauskopf now works for the Pacers, too, but she has been at nearly every Fever home game so far this season. And this one especially was important to her.
“This is special,” Krauskopf shared at halftime. “It was an incredible journey; every single person here was a part of it.”
Beyond those words, what made it clear that this championship meant a lot to Krauskopf was a moment that took place just after this moment with Dunn and former Fever assistant coach Mickie DeMoss:
Mere seconds after this photo was taken — by former Fever guard Erin Phillips, no less — Krauskopf stood up with the trophy, took a few steps and hugged it tightly. That 2012 season is a cherished memory for the former General Manager who was responsible for getting the Indiana Fever franchise off the ground.
Not long before that interaction, the hardware was in January’s hands. She carried it on to the floor for the halftime celebration of the team in front of a crowd of roaring Fever fans, all wearing red. January, the only player from that 2012 championship squad currently in the WNBA, joked that she was the one carrying the trophy because she is the strongest of the bunch.
Dunn recounted the Zellous game-winner in front of the crowd. Catchings relived the closing moments of Game 4 of the 2012 Finals, including her moment of fear for the safety of others when Larkin through the ball up into the air (you can see her panic for a brief moment in this video at the 4:35 mark). Finally, Pohlen detailed the injuries that Indiana had to overcome during the playoff run.
And then, Erin Phillips was handed the microphone. She was one of the last players to speak during the halftime ceremony. And according to Phillips, the 2012 Fever might not be done playing together. Instead, they just might be playing a different sport.
Instead of basketball, the team’s next adventure may be playing Australian rules football, the sport that Phillips plays professionally now for the Port Adelaide Football Club.
“I’m here recruiting, actually!” Phillips said. If history is any indicator, the resilient 2012 Indiana Fever team could also win an Australian rules football title.