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Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird lead Team USA, will make record fifth Olympic appearance - The Athletic

Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird lead Team USA, will make record fifth Olympic appearance - The Athletic Image
  • Posted on 13th Sep, 2021 17:57 PM
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Taurasi and Bird have each won four gold medals, starting at the 2000 games in Sydney. Only six basketball players, man or woman, have played in five Olympics before.

The Seattle Storm's Sue Bird and Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi were each named to their fifth Olympic team on Monday, headlining a Team USA roster that will be seeking its seventh consecutive gold medal later this summer in Tokyo.

Joining them will be Minnesota's Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier, Washington's Tina Charles and Ariel Atkins, Phoenix's Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith, Seattle's Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, and Las Vegas' A'ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray. Fowles will make her fourth appearance, Charles will make her third and Griner and Stewart will each make their second.

Taurasi and Bird have each won four gold medals, starting at the 2004 games in Athens. Only six basketball players, man or woman, have played in five Olympics before.

Competition in Japan begins July 26 and runs through Aug. 8. Coach Dawn Staley, a three-time gold medalist as a player and two-time gold medalist as an assistant, will lead the team's training camp in July in Las Vegas.

Putting Taurasi's and Bird's longevity in perspective

Chantel Jennings, senior WNBA and women's college basketball writer: There are only six other basketball players who’ve ever appeared in at least five Olympic Games, and only one American woman — Teresa Edwards, who played in every Olympics from 1984 until 2000.

The sports that tend to have this kind of longevity at the world level are non-contact sports like shooting, equestrian or sailing. It’s certainly impressive to see the ways both have extended their careers.

Who to watch among first-time Olympians

Jennings: Sources tell me Loyd was really impressive and consistent through all of the training camps, so it’s no surprise to see the 27-year-old on the roster.

The duo of Wilson and Collier, both 24, certainly represent the future of the sport for the Americans. Staley will likely use a lot of games to build the core of this team for Olympics to come as this could likely be the final national team appearance for a few players on this Tokyo roster.

What might the starting lineup look like?

Jennings: Given the veterans on the roster, Staley might go with a hat tip toward age in the starting lineup with something like Bird, Taurasi and Fowles and then build out from there. But, I could also see her — especially given how much an age mix there is — moving some pieces around to put Collier and Wilson on the floor with Taurasi and Bird.

Or, to keep some cohesion from the WNBA season, perhaps the trio of Bird, Stewart and Loyd — who won the most recent WNBA Championship — could also get some run in Team USA uniforms together.

Any surprise snubs?

Jennings: It’s not too surprising to not see Elena Delle Donne’s name since we still don’t have a return-to-play date for the 31-year-old who underwent another back surgery in December 2020.

It was surprising to not see Nneka Ogwumike listed. She has impressed with Team USA through international play, and her sister Erica tweeted that it’s not injury related because her return-to-play was well ahead of the Olympics.

I’m also surprised that Arike Ogunbowale wasn’t on the final roster, especially given the mix of young players and veterans on the roster. She’s one of the brightest young stars in the women’s game, and with Staley likely building this team for the future, she seems like she’d be an integral piece.

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