Nothing I like more than a good old-fashioned conspiracy theory.
I was scrolling my basketball feed this morning when an article dropped from Cassandra Negry about the stacked U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball team. If you follow the WNBA (and why wouldn’t you), you know that the U.S. could probably field three teams at the Olympics and take Gold, Silver and Bronze without a sweat. We’re that dominant.
Which is why it’s been really fascinating that Nneka Ogunwike, by every metric one of the ten best women’s basketball players on earth (you might recall seeing her on DoorDash commercials all year).
Why has she been left off the past 3 Olympic Teams?
Some people say its because of injuries or other legends getting seniority over her because its what’s required to continue to grow the game. Others claim there’s a UConn Conspiracy afoot, and I’m here to dig in.
First of all the entire selection process is shadowy as fuck. It’s entrusted to a five-person committee that does not have to reveal its criteria for who makes the team and why.
Derek Fisher was visibly upset, saying he was “pissed off” at the decision.
All-time legend Candace Parker called it “bullshit” and went on a rant:
"I know there's a lot of deserving women, but how many times are we going to say something is unfair, right? How many times are we going to say it's not politics? Like, I think we all know that."
What could Candace be referencing?
The UConn Women’s Basketball Cabal. A secret society of Huskies who conspire to put as many UConn women’s hoopers on the Olympic team as possible, often at the expense of better players.
Hot take, right????
Not so fast.
Ogunwike has been passed up three times in her career, despite being a six-time WNBA All-Star with the Los Angeles Sparks and 2016 league MVP, as well as leading the U.S. team in non-Olympic year international competitions (including the recent World Cup Gold medal).
In 2012 she was passed up by the selection committee despite being the #1 pick in the draft out of Stanford. Not shocking, right?
Well, actually … Diana Taurasi was the #1 pick in 2004, Candace Parker was #1 in 2008, and Breanna Stewart was #1 in 2016. Guess what? All three made the Olympic team. There’s a precedent that they actively SKIPPED for Nneka. I might point out Taurasi and Stewart both played at UConn.
In 2016, Nneka was passed over despite being an All-Star and first team All-Defensive player, and oh yeah, the league’s MVP that year.
This year, she was passed over once again, and the “official” story is she’s injured. People aren’t buying it. Derek FIsher said: “You can throw the injury out there, I’m calling BS on that one too. The timeline doesn’t add up.”
What timeline you might ask? The one that will have Nneka healthy by the time the games kick off in Tokyo, and this little fact: Diana Taurasi still made the roster despite a fractured sternum last month that has kept her from playing a minute this year.
Taurasi is 39 years old, coming off a serious injury … and she’s a UConn grad. Her timeline for return? Exactly the same as Ogunwike.
Guess who’s on the 5 person selection committee? Current Connecticut Sun coach Curt Miller, and current UConn Huskies coach Geno Aurieamma. Oh yes, one of the assistant coaches is Jennifer Rizzotti, president of … the Connecticut Sun. Where’d she go to school? Hahahah guess. UConn, where she played for Geno.
No one and I mean NO ONE thinks a 39-year-old Taurasi is better than Nneka Ogunwike, who is nearly a decade younger. No one.
So how did she get that spot on the Olympic team over Nneka, a player who attended every Team USA minicamp and led the USA in scoring at the team’s most recent qualifier?
I honestly have no idea. I floated the idea on Twitter to my good friend JackMac.
He didn’t really have a defense, other than to say this was a bad take. Others chimed in.
Is it a hot take? Really?
Or is UConn, the pre-eminent power in Women’s Basketball who’s fallen on hard times of late (5 years since the last title), using the Olympics to push the narrative that Connecticut is still the only place for women to play college hoops by running out washed players from the 1990s over the current generation of superstars? FIVE out of the 12 members of Team USA are UConn grads.
I don’t know JackMac. You tell me.
Food for thought!
I’ll just leave this here for now.