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June 20, 2008
by Robbie Gillies
In the coming months leading up to the Olympics and during the Games you will hear many stories about Becky Hammon. Hammon plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars in the WNBA, but will be playing for Russia in the Olympics this summer in Beijing. She was born in North Dakota and has no Russian ancestry in her bloodline. Many will be calling her a traitor. In fact, the United States' Women's coach Anne Donovan has already called her just that.
But, Becky Hammon is no traitor. She was left off the initial list of 23 women players being considered for just 12 spots on the Women's US team. Hammon was the runner-up in the WNBA for MVP last season and was somehow not on that list of 23 players. Hammon never thought she would be playing for the Russians in the Olympics. They had even asked her earlier in the year and she had no interest in playing for them. “I was like, ‘No, I can’t play for the Russians’…Never did it cross my mind it would be Russia across my chest.” But after being snubbed, she signed a lucrative deal to play for Russia during the off-season and was fast-tracked to become a Russian citizen to be able to compete in the Olympics.
When I called the deal to play in Russia 'lucrative', that was a bit of an understatement. Hammon makes the maximum salary in the WNBA of $95,000. Russia offered her a 4-year deal worth over $2 million. If the Russians win the silver medal she gets a $150,000 bonus, and if they win the gold she’ll receive $250,000.
This is not like an NBA player where the money they make from the Olympics is peanuts to them. This is Becky’s chance to cash in on her talents and make the money she can’t possibly make in the United States. She's 31 years old and who knows how many more years she will play. What's wrong with her cashing in while she still can? We don't get nearly as upset when a male athlete making millions holds out for more in order to secure their future.
She was later invited to tryout for the Women’s US team, but that would have jeopardized her deal with Russia and after not being considered among the top 23 there was little assurance of making the team or even a fair tryout. Becky made the smart decision. And while she would have played for the United States regardless of money, she’s at least following the American way, saying:
"There's nothing more American than taking advantage of an opportunity."
Information gathered from: ESPN