This year’s WNBA All-Star Game may be the most competitive matchup in league history.
The marquee event will feature a contest between Team USA and Team WNBA. The game serves as the Olympic squad’s send-off match ahead of Tokyo, while will also providing players slighted by the national team an opportunity to make a statement.
Here are the three players to watch in Wednesday’s All-Star Game:
Parker will face off against Team USA five years after being snubbed by the national team in 2016, after which Parker said she would never play for Team USA again. The Chicago forward has also had some choice words for the Olympic committee following Nneka Ogwumike’s shocking exclusion from this year’s Tokyo squad.
“How many times are we going to say that it’s not politics? Like I think we all know that,” Parker said of the roster selection.
In Tuesday’s media availability ahead of the All-Star Game, Parker emphasized the competitive nature of the All-Star contest.
“We’re gonna go out there, we’re gonna play, we’re gonna compete, we’re gonna have fun,” said Parker, adding, “Are we happily walking down the hallways, like, ‘Hey, USA Basketball’? No. But at the end of the day, it’s like, this is your job and it’s an honor to be an All-Star.”
Ogunbowale also has a history with Team USA. The Wings guard was left off the Tokyo roster after participating in several national team camps. Averaging 18.9 points per game with Dallas this season, Ogunbowale clearly has what it takes to be a USA basketball mainstay. Ogunobowale, however, insists she has nothing to prove in this year’s All-Star matchup against Team USA.
“I’m not really here to prove anything. We proved what we had to to get to the All-Star Game. Now we’re just competing against other players who would have been All-Stars, as well. So I’m just looking at it as a regular All-Star Game.”
Even if there’s no extra motivation, expect Ogunbowale to put on a show. All-Star Games are notorious for enticing players to flex their dribbling skills, and Ogunbowale has some of the best handles in the game today.
This step back from Arike Ogunbowale was cold ❄️ @espnW @Arike_O pic.twitter.com/TqhdLzF4IQ— ESPN (@espn) July 11, 2021
This step back from Arike Ogunbowale was cold ❄️ @espnW @Arike_O pic.twitter.com/TqhdLzF4IQ
Atkins may be under some added pressure as the only first-time All-Star on Team USA. The 24-year-old was one of the biggest surprises on the Tokyo roster and will look to prove her place in the WNBA All-Star game.
Team USA veteran Tina Charles spoke on Atkins’ role on the squad, emphasizing the Olympic rookie’s selflessness on the court.
“That’s why she’s on this team because she just fits in. It’s not all about scoring as to what gets you on this team. It’s, can you be selfless? Can you make the right play?”
Tune in: the WNBA All-Star Game will be held in Las Vegas on June 14 and airs on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET.