Early yearsTina grew up playing basketball with her brother TJ and his friends at Robertson Park in West Los Angeles, California. She recorded more than 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds in her high school career at Morningside High School in Inglewood, California, where she also played volleyball. She then went on to play basketball at the University of Southern California, where she graduated in 1997. She attended both high school and college with fellow WNBA player Lisa Leslie.
Thompson was selected No. 1 overall in the first round of the inaugural 1997 WNBA draft by the Houston Comets. There, she was a member of a dynasty that won four consecutive WNBA championships from 1997-2000. Thompson is a nine-time All-Star, winning MVP honors at the 2000 All-Star Game. She led all Western Conference players in All-Star voting in 2001. Thompson has been named to the All-WNBA First Team three times (1997, 1998, 2004) and All-WNBA Second Team four times (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002).
She gave birth to her first child, a son whose father is NBA player Damon Jones, in May 2005; she resumed playing with the Comets only two months later.
After the Comets were disbanded in 2008, Thompson joined the Los Angeles Sparks, where, on August 2010, she became the WNBA's all-time leading scorer, passing Lisa Leslie. In 2011, she was voted in by fans as one of the Top 15 players in the fifteen-year history of the WNBA.
An unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2011 season, Thompson signed with the Seattle Storm on February 27, 2012, to fill gaps left by Australia's Lauren Jackson, concurrent with power forward Jackson's commitment to the Australian national team for the 2012 Olympics, and small forward Swin Cash, who was traded to the Chicago Sky as part of a package deal for the second overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft.
She has several game-day superstitions, including taking a shower after shootaround, taking a 45-minute nap, wearing lipstick to play every game and dressing in a specific order. Atypically of the traditional power forward, Thompson exhibits the ability to step out and make three-point shots from NBA range, and, in fact, after Sheryl Swoopes left Houston for Seattle, Thompson stepped into more of a cornerman role.
On 31 May 2013, Thompson announced her intent to retire from basketball at the end of the 2013 WNBA season.