Indiana's Tamika Catchings was named WNBA MVP today. She got 21 first-place votes from the 40 sportswriters and broadcasters in the balloting.

Catchings, a three-time runnerup in the voting, had 291 total points, and is generally considered the best defensive player in the league.Her Fever are in the Eastern Conference finals, facing Atlanta.

She was followed in the MVP voting by Connecticut's Tina Charles (209) and Chicago's Sylvia Fowles (148). Seattle's Sue Bird (106) was fourth, followed by Lindsay Whalen (104) of the Lynx. Seimone Augustus (33) of the Lynx was eighth.

Catchings, a 6-1 forward, averaged 15.5 points and  7.1 rebounds per game as the Fever had the top record in the Eastern Conference.

Details and the vote totals are here.

Reaction to the announcement came quickly.

Said Kelly Krauskopf, Indiana Fever chief operating officer and general manager, “I just got big tears in  my eyes. I was so happy and thrilled for Tamika.

“It's not just about scoring. It's the way she affects a game, how she affects the outcome and all the winning seasons we've had. … I never gave up hope that at some point the media and the folks who voted on this would see the effect she has.”

Catchings played at the University of Tennessess and Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt was thrilled with the news, too. “She [Catchings] totally symbolizes every aspect of what a most valuable player should be through her leadership and everyday excellence on the court," Summitt said. "I am, and always have been, extremely proud of how Tamika goes about her business. I have been fortunate to coach a lot of great players but there has always been a `specialness’ between Catch and I because she is so real."

Said Larry Bird, a three-time NBA MVP and president of Pacers Basketball Operations, “[Tamika is] a quality person who is not only great on the court, but in the community as well. This is very deserving as Tamika fits the true description of an MVP. It’s another in a long list of accomplishments, all of which we’re extremely proud for her.”