I was completely appalled and utterly confused when I heard Cappie Pondexter was not named to this year's Olympic team. Any true fan of the WNBA and women's basketball ought to resonate with my confusion. We're talking about a gold medalist from the 2008 team in Beijing. We're talking about someone who many (including myself) believe to be the best guard in the game, a two-time WNBA champion, a 4-time All-Star (including her rookie season in 2006), a Finals MVP, and not to mention one of the recently named 15 best and most influential players in WNBA history. But that's just the thing, no one is talking about it.
The last person to comment on the matter was Mechelle Voepel for ESPN's Women's Basketball Blog back in March, when the first eleven players were announced for the Olympic women's basketball team. With Pondexter exempt from the list, Voepel titled her column, "So, what about Cappie Pondexter?" I'm not sure Voepel accurately tended to the severity of the situation. That was March 30. Since then, others have asked the same question, but none have thoroughly sought out a clear explanation as to why Pondexter was left off the team, including Pondexter herself.
Due to my own personal relationship with Cappie, I've had to endure questions such as, "Is Cappie hurt?" or, "Did something happen?" But sadly, the only answer I can provide is that she simply was not selected. Just last month, Slam Magazine's Sherron Shabazz conducted an interview with Pondexter. Shabazz was confused to hear the news as well.
"SLAM: You won a gold medal in 2008, what does it mean for you to go to London and represent the United States once again?"
"CP: I’m not sure if I’m going back but winning a gold medal was definitely great."
"SLAM: No? I thought you were selected?"
"CP: Nah, they didn’t select me."
"SLAM: What? What’s that about?"
"CP: I have no idea. You have to ask them."
Unfortunately, "them" doesn't seem to be too reliable of a source. Selection committee member and Team USA national team director Carol Callan along with head coach Geno Auriemma explained it as "just part of the tough process of selecting the team", as Voepel wrote in her column. Voepel also included the fact that Pondexter chose not to participate in the 2010 World Championships due to fatigue, but found time to attend Fashion Week in New York City. Callan has since denied that Cappie's choice affected their decision to leave her off this year's team. In Pondexter's absence, Lindsay Whalen made her way onto that 2010 team, deservingly. Lindsay Whalen is also on this year's Olympic women's basketball team.
With no one really pressing the matter, Coach Auriemma and Team USA officials have not encountered much questioning. As a frustrated fan, I would much rather someone confess that Pondexter's absence from the World Championships had some impact on their decision. Acting as if this was a calculated verdict just doesn't cut it, nor does it contain any rational sense from a basketball standpoint. Allow me to compare this to a hypothetical scenario:
Cappie Pondexter not being named to this year's Olympic team is the equivalent of a Chris Paul or a Carmelo Anthony not being named to Team USA this year. Imagine the uproar. Fans would demand some form of clarification. I could even take it a step further. Cappie Pondexter not being named to this Olympic team is the equivalent of Isiah Thomas not being named to the 1992 Dream Team. But the truth is, it might be worse than that.
Isiah was "allegedly" left off the Dream Team at Michael Jordan's request, a rumor that actually sounds most characteristic of MJ. In Pondexter's case, it isn't clear why or how she ended up absent from this year's roster, or more importantly, who specifically felt that Pondexter should not be on the team. For someone of her caliber to not be selected would take at least one individual of status who felt that Cappie Pondexter did not deserve to be on the team. If there is such a person, he/she is currently unknown.
So was it a hidden personal vendetta? Genuine dislike? Fashion Week? Stupidity? We'll never really know (not unless they make a documentary about this team in 20 years). But when I hear that the Olympic women's basketball team is missing one of the best women's basketball players in the world, something doesn't feel right. And though I look forward to a fourth straight gold medal for Team USA, the basketball fan in me felt obligated to address this unspoken injustice against my favorite female basketball player of all time, one of the best we've ever seen.
- Martin S.