To Russia with love? Not from the front row, as greed has tainted USA olympians

Nick Hartley

Nick Hartley

Two weeks ago, Becky Hammon found herself in the national spotlight for the wrong reasons. The Rapid City native announced her intention to play basketball for the Russians in the Olympics this summer. Hammon brought notice to the country that South Dakota had some great women’s basketball players in the mid ’90s. I quickly became a fan of her style of play.

For those who have not heard of Becky Hammon, she starred at Rapid City Central in her high school career. She became an All-American at Colorado State while leading them to the Sweet Sixteen in 1998-99. Unfortunately, she went undrafted in the WNBA draft. She quickly became a star with the New York Liberty and most recently the San Antonio Silver Stars, and finished second in the WNBA MVP race last year.

She was the reason many South Dakotans took notice of the WNBA. They wanted to see just how good a South Dakota girl could be against some of the best women’s basketball players. She has shown she belongs with the elite and has a successful career going in the WNBA. However, last week Hammon said she felt like the American team gave her a cold shoulder when she tried out for the Olympics last year. She soon signed a contract with a Russian team with the perk of being able to play in the Olympics ? for Russia.

It should not be surprising in this era where many athletes care only about themselves. After catching a part of her interview with a Sioux Falls radio station a couple weeks ago, I became sick when listening to her words. I was also intrigued by her reasoning to abandon her home. During her interview, she came off as self-centered and self-absorbed. The greatest influence in South Dakota women’s basketball history had become like many American athletes. She only cared about herself and her dreams and did not care if it hurt anyone else. The greed, the want and the get-the-hell-out-of-my-way method that is used to get anything they want at any price. Hammon definitely showed all of these motives in her radio interview.

This probably would have gone unnoticed, until Hammon had the opportunity to be interviewed by ESPN.

“The jersey that I wear has never made me who I was,” said Hammon. “It has nothing to do with what’s written on my heart. Will I be playing for Russia? Yes. But I’m absolutely 100 percent still an American. I love our country. I love what we stand for. This is an opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing in the Olympics.”

The Rapid City native’s actions have turned away many of her fans, including me. But Becky, you can win me back as a fan for a price. Everyone has their own price; Becky Hammon just has her own motives. Her actions could lead to future athletes abandoning their homeland to play for selfish pride in another country.