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With the announcement of the Team USA basketball roster Monday, it was inevitable that somebody great would get left off of the roster. But nobody could quite believe it when none other than Nneka Ogwumike was left off of the Olympic team — again.
Tuesday saw Los Angeles Sparks head coach Derek Fisher speak out in earnest, stating that the Sparks organization is “p—d” about Ogwumike’s omission from the U.S. Olympic Team. He added that it is a “freaking travesty” that she may go her entire career without playing for Team USA in the Olympics.
We’ve seen big players be inexplicably left off the Olympics squad before, most notably Candace Parker in 2016. The difference between CP3 and Nneka? Parker had at least been named to an Olympic team before. On the flip side, Ogwumike has had three different opportunities now to be named to the team and has still yet to receive an Olympics invitation.
Let’s face it: Ogwumike isn’t just the biggest snub this year. She may be the biggest snub in Team USA basketball history. Here’s why:
1. She’s the only WNBA MVP to have never made an Olympic roster
The former No. 1 overall pick and Rookie of the Year, Ogwumike won MVP in 2016 — another year in which she didn’t make the Olympic roster. The six-time WNBA All-Star was also named to the All-WNBA First Team that year en route to becoming a WNBA Champion with the Los Angeles Sparks.
Her banner year in 2016 also saw her set several WNBA records, including making 23 straight field goals without a miss through three games. She also set the record for most field goals in a single game without a miss with 12 made field goals against Dallas.
Ogwumike’s scoring efficiency that year was literally unprecedented — she set the record for highest true shooting percentage (73.7%) for both the WNBA and NBA.
How the forward didn’t make the Olympic team that year is a mystery, and she’s only gotten better since, making this cycle’s snub even more apparent.
2. She makes an impact every time she plays with Team USA
It’s not like Ogwumike has never played for Team USA, having been a member of the senior National Team since 2014.
She started off her Team USA career in Argentina in 2008 as a member of the U-18 FIBA America team in Argentina, helping to lead the team to a 5-0 record while leading the squad in scoring and rebounding. There, Ogwumike was named MVP of the tournament.
The same story unfolded at the U19 World Championship in 2009, where Ogwumike led Team USA in scoring and rebounding and was named tournament MVP. The star has also been part of two World Cup winning teams, in 2014 and 2018.
More recently, Ogwumike was one of eight players who participated in USA Basketball’s expanded Pre-Olympic Training Program. She is also one of a few players who has attended every Team USA camp in the past five years, which had paid off up until this point: she was second in scoring for Team USA in 2019-20 and was named the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament MVP.
Despite Ogwumike helping Team USA qualify for the Olympics, she still wasn’t included on the final roster.
3. She’s a leader on and off the court
The leadership that Ogwumike brings cannot be understated. As WNBPA president, Ogwumike has made an outsized impact on the WNBA. During the league’s latest CBA negotiations, Ogwumike helped to negotiate arguably the most impactful CBA in league history.
As Devereaux Peters put it, Ogwumike “has quite literally changed the face of the league as president of the WNBPA.”
Two months later, Ogwumike and the player’s association helped negotiate the 2020 “wubble” season, making sure that players received their full contracts for the shortened season and playoffs.
“I have watched Nneka put 144 players first each & every day for YEARS,” sister Chiney wrote on Twitter. “No one practices harder. Plays harder. Cares more. No one is a better teammate or leader.”
“Representation matters and there is no better representative or ambassador for the game THAT HAS GAME than Nnemkadi Ogwumike.”
She’s also brought that leadership with her to Team USA, as coach Dawn Staley told reporters that Ogwumike has been a “great voice” during training camp and practices.
4. And let’s be honest: Her injury doesn’t seem to be a factor
In talks with reporters, Staley alluded to the notion that Ogwumike’s knee injury was a factor in the decision to keep her off the Olympic team.
“Having to make a decision today,” she said. “If we had to make a decision a month from now, I’m sure she’d be healthy.”
Ogwumike is set to return in early July, more than two weeks before the Olympic basketball tournament begins. Diana Taurasi is also presently injured with a fractured sternum, and yet she was named to the team.
It’s hard to say who should have been left off in Ogwumike’s place. But she’s also too good of a player, both on and off the court, to have been left on the outside looking in (again).
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