Ah — the glory of playing for country, of wearing ye olde red, white and blue, glowing sweat-drenched beneath a star-bangled banner draped about well-sculpted shoulders.
Candace Parker experienced this rare, gold medal-winning Olympic moment twice in her storied basketball career: Beijing (2008) and London (2012). The 6-foot-3 phenom played a major role in those Team USA victories, bringing honor, prestige and worldwide bragging rights to the nation for at least another four years. The thought of a player of Parker’s caliber being cut from an Olympic team seemed unfathomable, but that is exactly what happened.
This week, Parker revealed on the Show Me Your Friends podcast the far-reaching ramifications of Team USA’s decision, which essentially made her sacrifices in the years leading up to 2016 for naught and left blighted any future hope of continuing with the USA Women’s National Team.
After two years of silence on the matter (choosing silence over disingenuous statements crafted to protect the image of the team), the grievances Parker aired can be summed up as a reckless lack of consideration amounting to a terrible look for the USA Women’s National Team.
“What’s really upsetting to me is that I don’t think people understand women’s basketball,” Parker said. “I think they think we play in the WNBA and that’s it.”
True women’s basketball fans know that most players spend the WNBA offseason competing in leagues overseas. So, adding in international playing through the USA Women’s National Team logically points to a lot of strain on the body.
Parker cited as chief complaints to being cut:
- playing through injuries, surgeries and recoveries — This is a cluster of circumstances that realistically could have played a role in her long road to a WNBA championship.
- missing time with her daughter — As SB Nation’s Matt Ellentuck wrote, “The Rio Olympics would’ve been special to the Parker family, as not only was Parker in the prime of her career, her daughter, Lailaa, would’ve been old enough to travel and see her play.”
- being given no indication whatsoever that she could be cut — This is almost as bad as a person learning of their firing on Twitter.
- seeing her likeness appear in Team USA promotions after being cut — How does this get categorized — simple negligence or cruelty? Either way, it amounts to public humiliation.
- being subjected to the false narrative that her first WNBA title happened because of being cut from the Rio roster — “That had nothing to do with it,” Parker said. “I wanted to win a championship for nine years.”
Although not in the vengeful way naysayers believe, perhaps not playing in the Olympics did, in fact, help her to her first WNBA title by allowing her to stay healthy enough, and fresh enough, to guide the Sparks to victory that year. And, given what seems like permanent bitterness towards Team USA basketball, it is great that she walked away from 2016 with something to show for her years of grinding: championship hardware.
“I was hurt,” she said. “Because I feel like I’ve played through so many injuries and given so many hours into USA Basketball and then in one fell swoop they can just be like, ‘It doesn’t matter about your play. You’re just not on the team’.”
Undoubtedly, there are two sides to every story. But if one party walks away feeling like this, chances are high that decisions were not carried out with as much decency and diplomacy as required in a situation that left a player feeling that her loyalty had been betrayed. As the USA Women’s National Team selection committee prepares to watch the exhibition match-up between Team USA and China tonight, hopefully Parker’s words will resonate in the back of the members’ minds.
Instead of focusing solely on which players stay and which players go, an emphasis should be placed on how these transactions are carried out. A public admission that they botched the handling of Parker’s situation in 2016, along with an apology, wouldn’t hurt either.
After all, the world is watching.
Team USA shaves roster ahead of Thursday’s exhibition against China
Selection committee members whittled the USA Women’s National Team roster from the original 19 camp attendees to 13:
As expected, many of the long-time greats kept their roster spots, including: Seimone Augustus, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. Some of the fresher faces to retain a chance at Olympic gold include: Layshia Clarendon, Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart.
Of the players who did not make the cut into the exhibition game, USA Women’s National Team Head Coach Dawn Staley said: “[T]heir sacrifice will one day pay off, hopefully in the near future for them.”
The following players were sent home: Napheesa Collier (University of Connecticut), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings), Tiffany Mitchell (Indiana Fever), Brittney Sykes (Atlanta Dream), Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun) and Sydne Wiese (Los Angeles Sparks).
Information on how to watch tonight’s exhibition game can be found HERE.
Other happenings in women’s hoops
Alien among us
Candace Parker made another appearance on KG’s Area 21 and touted Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors for being a very atypical NBA superstar.
"That's why I think people underestimate how valuable Steph Curry is."— KG's Area 21 (@KGArea21) April 25, 2018
KG, @Candace_Parker and Gary Payton talk how unique of a superstar @StephenCurry30 is and why it makes the @warriors so special. #KGArea21 pic.twitter.com/TgAn4paQHF
Happy Birthday, Adam Silver!
Borders gave the shout out to Cupcake Cafe NYC so, naturally, this warranted a peak. Some of their offerings look too good to eat! (Yes, we’d eat them anyway. )
Wings guard has words of wisdom for the world
(Say that three times.)
I feel like it should be a law that everyone has to have an emotional support animal.— Kaela Davis (@KaelaD3) April 26, 2018
We couldn’t agree more.
Imani’s important question
Is being inactive still considered an activity: like sleeping, sitting, or standing for example?— Imani McGee-Stafford (@imanitrishawn_) April 26, 2018
Wednesday Work! Last day before I head out to Los Angeles! pic.twitter.com/Swn6AVFImK— Mistie Bass (@A_Phoenix_Born) April 25, 2018
We see you, Mistie Bass.