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Statues Honor Four Basketball Icons from Pacers Sports & Entertainment

New Sculptures Unveiled in Sports Legends Avenue of Champions at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

Basketball legend Tamika Catchings has received countless honors and awards over the course of her career. But on Tuesday morning at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Catchings was honored in a new way, as the museum unveiled a bronze statue of the four-time Olympic gold medalist.

"I've never had a statue, maybe a couple drawings from some kids, but this is absolutely amazing," Catchings said.

Catchings was one of 16 sports legends honored with a statue as part of the Sports Legends Avenue of Champions, a series of sculptures displayed throughout the new outdoor Sports Legends Experience, which opened in March.

In addition to Catchings, three other basketball icons with ties to Pacers Sports & Entertainment were emblazoned in bronze.

Hall of Fame sharpshooter Reggie Miller shares a statue with Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster Bobby "Slick" Leonard, a fitting tribute as Leonard's "Boom Baby!" call after a Pacers 3-pointer became synonymous with Miller, who made 2,560 threes in his 18-year career.

Another statue features the great Larry Bird, who starred at Indiana State before going on to a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics, then later returned to his home state to coach the Pacers and later lead the front office. To date, Bird is the only person in NBA history to win the Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year awards.

"It's a remarkable day," Pacers Sports & Entertainment President/COO Rick Fuson said. "To see these great likenesses of all these friends that I've known over the years, it's heartwarming for me."

Catchings was on hand for the unveiling of her statue on Tuesday, accompanied by a large contingent of family members.

"In my career, what has been really important is my (Catch the Stars) Foundation and working with kids," Catchings said. "It's kind of fitting to have a statue at the Children's Museum. Thousands, millions, billions of kids will eventually come through this place."

Catchings said she actually visited the Sports Legends Experience with her family on Saturday. Her nephews played on all the different sports exhibits and Catchings even joined in on a few.

"This place is awesome," Catchings said. "I'm like a big kid, too. I got out there, did some stuff on the soccer field and hit a couple tennis balls."

The other legends honored with statues include basketball star Oscar Robertson, longtime Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, soccer star DaMarcus Beasley, racing legend A.J. Foyt Jr., three members of the Indianapolis Clowns Negro League team (Hank Aaron, Marcenia Lyle "Toni" Stone, and Mamie "Peanut" Johnson), golf architects Alice and Pete Dye, hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, track legend Wilma Rudolph, and longtime tennis coach Barbara Wynne.

Created specifically for the Avenue of Champions, the sculptures are also the newest additions to the NAMOS collection (the National Art Museum of Sport). NAMOS features a group of more than 1,000 artworks focused on recreational and professional athletics within the Sports Legends Experience. By learning about the lives and achievements of these legends, visitors will be inspired to work hard and stay healthy, to set goals and share dreams.

"Many of these legends confronted obstacles in their lives - poverty, racism, physical disabilities - yet they persevered, driven by a resolve to do the best they could despite what stood in their way," said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. "The Museum wants visitors to understand that legends don't become legends the easy way - they take the lessons they learn from mistakes, failures and their passions and apply them to everything they do."