Sunday, May 25, 2008
Was this a patch on the soldiers' uniforms in "Red Dawn"?
During the halftime of the recent Storm/Silver Stars game on ABC, the discussion regarded Becky Hammon of the Silver Spurs and her decision to play for the Russian women's basketball team.
I'll give you a run down of the event.
1. Hammon has been pretty much overlooked by USA basketball.
2. Then, in the summer of 2007, she was overlooked yet again. Her name wasn't even on the list of players from which the USA Women's Basketball team would be chosen.
3. Hammon, looking for offseason work, signs with CSKA Moscow. Russian League rules allow players to be fast-tracked for Russian citizenship if they have never played in a FIBA-sanctioned event.
4. Hammon then gets another invitation to try out for the US team. The invitation is timed one week before CSKA Moscow training and one month before the Russian League season starts.
5. Her agent asks USA Basketball if Hammon is seriously being considered. His impression? It's an inviation given out of politeness more than anything.
Therefore, Hammon doesn't bother to attend. She is fast-tracked for a Russian citizenship and receives a Russian passport. Hammon then becomes eligible to play for the Russian women's team, and a small amount of hell breaks loose in USA women's basketball.
I'll make my points in followup:
1. If Becky weren't talented, no one would care. It would be like when a bunch of rink rats from New York go and represent the Italian ice hockey team. There would be a chuckle and even a few "good for yous". It's Becky's talent that's the problem.
2. If Becky joined the Russian team, and the Russians won the gold medal, USA Basketball would face a lot of embarrassment. The question, "why didn't you sign Hammon?" would be asked long and hard. Why would you not sign the runner up for MVP voting in the WNBA in 2007?
3. USA Basketball has pretty much made it clear that they don't want Becky. But I never saw a rule that said, "we don't want you, and if you don't play with us you can't play with anybody else."
4. The entire concept that the Olypics are some sort of bastion of national pride or are a pure example of the spirit of competition is just laughable. It was laughable when the USA recruited its first Men's Basketball "Dream Team", with a bunch of multi-millionaires living outside of the Olympic Village. It was a joke when the USA Women won a gold medal in 2004 with a crapload of pros, winning their first three games by an average of 31 points. (Remember the days when if you ever played for pay, you were disqualified?)
5. One problem with women's basketball is that in the United States, it's a small pond. Decisions aren't made on the level of "who is the best player?" but more on the level of "who was my best friend in college?" and "do I have a pal that needs a job?"
I'm sure that when the Olympics roll around, we'll hear a lot of ex-jock sports reporter expound from Mount Olympus on "Why Becky Hammon is Wrong". I'll bet money that these are the same reporters who have treated the WNBA with nothing but contempt for years. Oh well, at least they'll be talking about the WNBA, good or bad.
Becky Hammon didn't turn her back on the United States. The United States turned its back on Becky Hammon.