The rosters for both the women and men’s basketball teams for the Tokyo Olympics have been announced, and there’s both controversy and the possibility of historic achievements for each. The women’s team will be coached by former
The women’s roster sparked the first controversy when it was announced that there were three major omissions. Two of them were former Olympic gold medalists Elena Delle Donne and Candace Parker. But the biggest outcry came with the absence (many have labeled it a snub) of Nneka Ogwumike. This happened despite the fact she’s been a regular for Team USA, a squad that’s won gold medals in two past FIBA World Cups. Adding insult to injury, this isn’t the first time Ogwumike has been ignored. She was also left off the 2016 Rio Olympics roster the same year she was named the WNBA’s MVP.
A possible plausible reason given was health concerns, as Ogwumike suffered a knee injury early in June. She had a timeline to return of four to six weeks. Coach Staley did cite this in her response, saying to the Mercury News, “breaks my heart that Nneka isn’t on this team. Having to make a decision today, if we had to make a decision a month from now I’m sure she’d be healthy. This was one of the things she wanted to do.”
But Ogwumike’s younger sister and teammate Chiney – who is also a WNBA All-Star – wasn’t accepting that excuse. She voiced her displeasure on social media. “First things first, some will think I’m 100% biased,” Ogwumike wrote on Twitter. “This is my big sis we’re talking about. But there are the facts and she deserved her respect.” That Ogwumike may indeed wind up playing for the Nigerian Olympic team only adds more fuel to the fire.
The men’s team had its own controversy when Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward Kevin Love was a last-minute addition. ESPN’s Jalen Rose was one of many who questioned that selection, though Rose added a charge he later recanted. Rose initially claimed that the USA Basketball Committee was afraid to send an all-Black team to Tokyo and had selected Love as the token white representative. That comment overlooked the fact that the USA has sent all-Black men’s teams to the Olympics on multiple occasions dating back to 1996. Rose later apologized for the statement, though he was 100 percent correct in saying Deandre Ayton (for one) has had a much better year than Love and was far more deserving of a roster spot.
The furor took a bit of the spotlight away from the fact that this may well be the final gig for Gregg Popovich. He’s been head coach (now also president) of the Spurs since 1996 and coached five title teams. He’s the winningest coach in NBA history and the Spurs have grabbed five titles during his tenure. There are lots of unconfirmed rumors that he’s considering retirement after the Olympics, and that assistant Becky Hammon is positioned to take his place and become the NBA’s first woman head coach.
Whether that proves true or not, the legacies of both Gregg Popovich and Dawn Staley are magnificent. Adding Olympic titles will only further embellish them.