Stephen A. Smith Comments On Olympic Basketball Decision

Stephen A. Smith is known for his loud, often controversial takes, and he delivered just that when discussing Caitlin Clark's exclusion from the 2024 U.S. women’s basketball team on ESPN's "First Take." Smith's signature style of animated delivery was on full display as he tackled the topic, offering a mix of personal opinion and questionable logic.

Smith started by acknowledging the U.S. women's team’s impressive record of seven consecutive Olympic gold medals since 1996, affirming their strength and likely continued success, with or without Clark. This raises the question of why Smith was so heated about Clark's absence if it wouldn’t impact the team's chances of winning.

However, Smith wasn't content with just pointing out the team's strengths. He launched into a diatribe against the decision-makers who left Clark off the roster, labeling the move as "idiocy" and "stupid." His argument seemed to contradict itself as he admitted that every player selected deserved their spot based on merit, suggesting that Clark's selection should have been influenced by factors beyond basketball performance.

To bolster his point, Smith drew a parallel to the 1992 U.S. men’s “Dream Team” and the inclusion of Christian Laettner over other notable players like Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning.

He posited that Laettner's selection was due to his notoriety and race, arguing that Clark, too, should have been chosen for her fame and impact on viewership. However, Laettner's collegiate success, including two national championships, and the different positional needs of the teams, make this comparison flawed.

Moreover, Smith's rant overlooks the broader context of Olympic team selections. Team chemistry and complementary skill sets are crucial for international competition. Clark, despite her impressive stats and significant impact on the court, has areas for improvement, especially in defense, where she occasionally struggles due to her build. Additionally, potential team dynamics, such as the presence of Diana Taurasi, who has previously criticized Clark, play a role in these decisions.

Smith’s impassioned plea for Clark's inclusion also disregards historical snubs far more controversial, such as Isiah Thomas being left off the 1992 Dream Team despite his status as one of the best point guards of his era.

Theories suggest Thomas’s exclusion was due to personal vendettas and his team's aggressive style, showing that even the best players can be overlooked for various reasons.

While Smith's bombastic style makes for entertaining television, his analysis often sacrifices depth for drama. Caitlin Clark, despite her Olympic snub, remains a phenomenal talent who has handled the situation with grace, focusing on using it as motivation to improve further. Whether or not she deserved a spot on Team USA can be debated, but it's clear that her journey and growth in basketball are far from over.

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