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|Tina Charles shares a hug with her mother, Angella Holgate. Charles credits Holgate and her father, Rawiston Charles, for the huge part they played in her career and her MVP-winning season.|
Way back at the start of this WNBA season -- that seems like such a long time ago -- I was not thinking about my chances of winning the Most Valuable Player award. My concentration was on how to assert myself after being named a captain and what I would have to do in practices and games to set up a postseason run.
It's not that being the MVP wasn't a goal. I was taught to put in hard work, have dedication and patience, and eventually respect and recognition would come. For me to receive the MVP award would be a dream come true.
When the season began, my main focus was on doing what I could to help the Connecticut Sun win a championship. We are a young team, and we took a huge step by winning 21 games last year and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008. With so many players returning, I knew we had a chance to build on what we accomplished in 2011.
And we did.
We won 25 games, and we survived 14 games without our All-Star forward, Asjha Jones, who was forced to sit with an injury after the Olympics. We went 9-5 without her, but we received huge contributions from other players to fill her void. Without those contributions and the confidence and guidance of coach Mike Thibault, we wouldn't have been able to finish first in the Eastern Conference.
Maybe that was why it hit me so hard when I got the call from WNBA president Laurel Richie. I was leaving practice when an unknown number came up on my cell. I normally don't answer those calls, but I did this time, and that's when I heard the news.
My immediate reaction was to break down crying. I had flashbacks to different moments in my career and thought about what it took to reach this point. I thought about all the people who helped me get here. I thought about my parents, my faith in God, my close friends and family. I thought about every coach who ever coached me and every teammate I ever had. They all helped me get to this point in some way.
After I regained my composure, I called my mother and father. They were emotional, too. They have always been there for me and they have always been dedicated to my career. This was their MVP as much as it was mine.
When I was younger, I played AAU basketball for the New York Gazelles. I grew up a New York Liberty fan, and I have this memory of going out to half court with my teammates to receive a game ball from Becky Hammon, Teresa Weatherspoon and Sue Wicks. I remember wanting to be in their position.
Now, I am the MVP of the WNBA. I still don't think it has sunk in yet.