National Sports

WNBA star Caitlin Clark reportedly isn’t going to the Olympics

PHILADELPHIA — The planned U.S. women’s basketball roster for this summer’s Olympics was leaked Saturday morning, and the immediate headline is that Caitlin Clark apparently isn’t going to make it.

That unsurprisingly got people talking, since Clark is the biggest name in the sport even though she isn’t its best player. She currently is a great rookie with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever who just won the year’s first Rookie of the Month award, and, on Friday night, dropped 30 points, eight assists and six rebounds on the winless Washington Mystics in an 85-83 victory.

The game drew a crowd of 20,333, the largest WNBA crowd in 17 years and the league’s seventh-largest all time, after the Mystics moved it to D.C.’s downtown NBA arena from their usual 4,200-seat home across town. That was the latest testament to Clark’s popularity.

But should popularity — which Olympics broadcaster NBC would love to profit from this summer — be a reason for picking a player to a national team? Apparently USA Basketball has taken it into consideration.

USA Today reported Saturday that “concern over how Clark’s millions of fans would react to what would likely be limited playing time on a stacked roster was a factor in the decision making.” That seems a remarkable admission of the possibility that commerce is influencing the selection process, not just basketball.

It’s hard to imagine the U.S. women’s soccer team thinking that way, for example, even in the period between the 1999 and 2011 World Cups when it wasn’t as popular as it has been since.

The rest of the U.S. basketball squad was first reported by the Athletic. It’s a veteran-laden group, and there will be few questions about its talent or star power.


The 12-player roster is expected to be, in alphabetical order: Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx), Kahleah Copper (Phoenix Mercury), Chelsea Gray (Las Vegas Aces), Brittney Griner (Phoenix), Sabrina Ionescu (New York Liberty), Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas), reigning WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart (New York), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix), Alyssa Thomas (Connecticut Sun), two-time MVP A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas) and Jackie Young (Las Vegas).

It will be Copper’s first Olympics, a great reward for the 29-year-old who’s been a league mainstay ever since winning the 2021 title and Finals MVP award with the Chicago Sky.

She was traded to Phoenix this year and has thrived there, averaging 23.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. On Friday, Copper poured in 34 points, including 10 points in the last 1 minute, 10 seconds, to lead the Mercury to an 81-80 comeback win over the Minnesota Lynx — including the game-winning three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left.

Coincidentally, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, a South Jersey native, also is the U.S. Olympic coach.

Reeve doesn’t pick the roster alone. USA Basketball has a selection committee that also includes Dawn Staley, the previous Olympic coach (among many titles); three-time Olympian Seimone Augustus (who recently was hired as an assistant at LSU, her alma mater); two-time Olympian Delisha Milton-Jones (head coach at Old Dominion); Connecticut Sun president Jennifer Rizzotti; and WNBA head of league operations Bethany Donaphin.

The most controversial roster pick likely will be one of Copper’s Mercury teammates, Taurasi. The all-time star is the Mercury’s second-leading scorer this season with 16.3 points per game, but she turns 42 on Tuesday and many outsiders would like to see younger players get picked.

The Athletic said Clark, Brionna Jones (Connecticut), and second-year pro Aliyah Boston (Indiana) are in the running to be alternates, and that is no small thing. Gray has not played a game since suffering a lower leg injury in last year’s WNBA Finals, though she took part in a U.S. team training camp in April.

If Gray comes back to the court before the Olympics, she should keep her spot. If she doesn’t and ends up unable to go to the Games, Clark could be invited at the last minute. Once the tournament starts, injury replacements are not allowed.

It’s not known when the roster will be officially announced. The women’s Olympic basketball competition starts July 28, with the U.S. playing its group stage opener against Japan the next day. After that come games against a very good Belgium team on Aug. 1 and Germany on Aug. 4, before the knockout rounds start Aug. 7.

The U.S. women have won the last seven Olympic women’s basketball gold medals, dating back to 1996, and nine overall.