Michele Timms

Journey to the Hall of Fame

Michele Timms
Journey to the Hall of Fame

Photos courtesy of Basketball Australia/Michele Timms

It was the middle of the night and I was in Beijing when I got the call. I wasn’t sure in the morning whether I’d dreamt it or not. When Florian was talking to me I couldn’t believe it. I remember watching Lindsay Gaze, Andrew Gaze and Jan Stirling be inducted. I couldn’t have imagined to be announced in the FIBA Hall of Fame. I didn’t think it would ever happen.

Basketball has been my life since I was seven. I fell in love with the sport straight away which was unusual back in the 70’s because basketball wasn’t on a national scale. It was a major sport at my school and it just so happened that the area I lived in loved it. Living in a family of 9 kids basketball was one of the sports we could play in the backyard all day and all night. It had always been a dream of mine to represent the country. 

Looking back, Atlanta 96 has to be my biggest achievement in basketball. We won Australia’s first ever medal and it was incredibly special. The girls in that team will be lifelong friends. It's been 20 years since we won that first ever medal and as we speak, there's already a reunion being planned to bring the team together. I’m sure in thirty years time we will still be calling each other trying to catch up and reminisce. In my time I was extremely lucky to be surrounded by incredibly talented women. I’ll never forget the love and comradery. It meant so much more than just 12 players and 8 coaching staff, it was about Basketball Australia finally coming of age. It was the recognition of where we came from and where we were heading to. 

Basketball also taught me how to get through the darkest of times. The Sydney 2000 Olympics was going to be my swan song. Roughly 6 weeks before the games I injured my knee playing in the WNBA. I flew back to Australia with only 4-5 weeks before the Olympics. When I got back I found I needed an operation. It sent me into a downward spiral of depression. Self-absorbed is the word that comes to mind. I got to the point that I didn’t want to go to the Olympics. I didn’t want to be limping through the Olympics and not making an impact. I used to drive to training, stay in the car and ball my eyes out never getting out of the car. It was all me, poor me, I couldn’t get myself out of bed. These Olympics were meant to be a fairy tale ending, but instead I was so wrapped up in my dreams and how they weren’t going to come to life. I’ve got radio personality, Tracey Bartram, to thank. She spoke while watching the Olympic torch travel from Melbourne to Sydney of how excited she was that she was able to share this experience with her son; a once in a life time moment. Someone that wasn’t an athlete that knew the importance of the Olympics made me realise the opportunity that was in front of me. Not only playing for your country but captaining them in Australia at the Olympics, in my own backyard. With the help of good friend, Ross Wignall, we worked really hard to get myself somewhere, probably not my best, but was good enough to back up Kristi Harrower. Sometimes you don’t see the bigger picture. Thank god for Tracey Bartram.

When I watch today’s game I think the dynamic quality of the players has really changed as sports science, strength and conditioning has developed. The 5 man has really evolved since I was playing in the national team. Jenny Whittle back in the 90s was a phenomenon. She was 6ft6, which was really tall for an Aussie player. She could go to work in the block and could trail and shoot the three which was really unusual. These days, the 4/5 man now needs to have 3pt range to play in that position.

Basketball has been a parent, a friend, an educator. It has provided me with so many life skills; friendship, loyalty, acceptance, interaction, handling adversity and the more obvious ones; winning and losing. I still today am involved in the sport and continue to learn. Basketball has provided me with an opportunity to be a professional, doing something I love and getting paid for it which is just crazy. I never thought it would have happened when I was 7. I just wanted to play for Australia. It’s provided me a pathway to live and now that I have a child, Kalsie, it’s provided me with the opportunity to take care of her and to travel the world. It’s amazing what the sport has done.

I was never one for awards maybe because I didn’t win any. I was more of an all-star 5 type of player. The influx of support and congratulations on social media was super overwhelming when it was announced I'd be inducted in to the Hall of Fame. I had people that didn’t know me sending me messages. Even guys telling me I was their favourite player growing up, running around the back yard pretending they were playing as me and messages telling me that I was the reason why they played basketball.  That’s incredibly humbling, it's really deep, I’m really honoured. To me, that’s unbelievably special. Reading everybody’s Timmsy tales was something I’ll take away with this memory of being inducted. My daughter is 12 and never got to see me play. This is a wonderful opportunity for her to get a sense of what her mum did. I don’t know whether she realises, but I think she has a little bit of an understanding. For her to be over there with me and see what it’s really about and see me receive the award is an experience I’ll be forever grateful for.

Being inducted would have to be one of the biggest moments of my life. This is the most prestigious award one can receive. To be recognised by the world body is massive and it’s a privilege to be the first female Australian player.

I'll be honest, I'm excited about the upcoming inauguration... no hiding it! I just can't believe I'm going to be recognised in the same Hall of Fame as the Greats of the game. I mean, come on... Michael Jordan is in there. You can't see my smile but you can imagine it's ear to ear.

Michele is an Australian female basketball coach and retired professional basketball player who played for the Phoenix Mercury in the Women's National Basketball Association. Many people consider the Melbourne native to be one of Australia's greatest basketball players of all time.