Caitlin Clark Left Off US Women’s Olympic Basketball Roster

The United States has won the gold medal in women’s basketball at every Olympic Games since 1996, and the inclusion or exclusion of Caitlin Clark on the 2024 team won’t change that. The U.S. is not taking Clark to Paris this summer, and they are -1400 to win another gold medal. If they decided to take Clark, that number wouldn’t change.

The battle for the silver and bronze medals at the Olympic is going to be fierce, with China (+2000), France (+2500), Australia (+2500), Japan (+3000), and Spain (+3000) all having won a previous medal in the sport.

But no one is going to touch the United States, which has won every gold medal game during their streak by at least 11 points, and done so by as many as 29 points. The last time they lost an Olympic game was 1992.

The guards on this year’s U.S. team include Diana Taurasi, Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young, Kelsey Plum, Sabrina Ionescu, and Jewell Loyd. Clark is averaging 16.8 points and 6.3 assists per game, which is certainly good enough to warrant a selection. But in order to add her, someone else would have to go.

Taurasi is a U.S. basketball legend and five-time gold medalist. Gray is a WNBA Finals MVP and she won a gold medal in Tokyo. Young is a two-time All-Star, and so is Plum. Ionescu became a national name by nearly beating Stephen Curry in the 3-point contest at the NBA All-Star Weekend, and five-time All-Star Loyd was the WNBA’s leading scorer last season.

Clark is deserving. But the talent pool in the United States is the deepest in the world.

How the Team is Chosen

There are a number of ways for players to get noticed by the selection committee, and increase their chances of making the Olympic team.

Playing at a high level in the WNBA is the easiest way to get noticed. Clark and the Indiana Fever have had a packed schedule to start the season, which has been a help by putting her on television a lot. But she has had very little rest, having just finished a lengthy college season, and at times she plays tired.

There is also the USA Basketball National Team’s training camp, which Clark was invited to, but ultimately had to decline because it took place during the NCAA Women’s Final Four. Why the camp was held that weekend, when the focus of women’s basketball was elsewhere, is a worthwhile question.

The committee that makes the selections includes South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley and LSU assistant coach Seimone Augustus – two of the women who had to prepare to play against Clark in college.

A Missed Opportunity

Clark has handled her omission from the team like a professional. She told reporters on Sunday, “I’m excited for the girls that are on the team. I know it’s the most competitive team in the world and I know it could’ve gone either way. I was a kid that grew up watching the Olympics, so it’ll be fun to watch them.”

In terms of athletes that would become big stories, and spotlights that are deserved, Clark’s omission is unfortunate. These Paris Olympics features the return of gymnast Simone Biles, and has seven-time gold medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky hoping to tie the women’s record with an eighth. Clark and her impact on women’s professional basketball would have fit nicely with those two all-time greats.

She also results in televisions being tuned to women’s sports, and would have helped put the U.S. women’s basketball team front and center, as it deserves. It has been far more dominant on the world stage than the U.S. men’s team, and it deserves the kind of ratings that Clark brings with her.

USA Basketball wants to win the gold medal, and they will do that with the team they have assembled. They begin play in Group C on July 29th against Japan, and the U.S. team is 16.5-point favorites. Three days later, against Belgium, they are favored by 17.5 points, and August 4th against Germany, the U.S. is favored by 24.5.

But USA Basketball also says that its goal is to promote and grow the sport at all levels. On Friday, the Fever were at the Washington Mystics, two teams with a combined three wins, and 20,333 fans were in attendance. That is the highest attendance figure in the WNBA regular season in 25 years, and the Mystics reported more than $1 million in gate receipts for the first time in team history.

No one grows or promotes the sport better than Caitlin Clark. She would grow it even more if she were in Paris.

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