Becky Hammon, an All-American girl who grew up in South Dakota and played college basketball for Colorado State, is making a tough ‘business’ decision. She is switching sides and playing for the Russian Olympic basketball team for a bigger paycheck.
Some are calling her a mercenary for hire and a traitor to her country, while others think she’s just a business savvy athlete who saw an opportunity.
Hammon showed her ability to play ball while breaking all kind of scoring records for the Colorado State women‘s basketball team. She’s been in the WNBA since 1999, and is coming off one of her best seasons while playing for the San Antonio Silver Stars (which is not very creative in differentiating itself from the NBA San Antonio Spurs). And you won’t believe the money she stands to make away from American soil. (pictures and video after the jump)
In addition to being one of the only attractive female ballers, she seems like a cool chick with a good head on her shoulders. In an ESPN the magazine interview with Kenny Mayne, she shows that she has a good sense of humor and some high expectations:
KM: You’re playing for Russia in the Olympics. Why not Spain? Or Ecuador?
BH: Well, my Spanish is better than my Russian. But when the WNBA season ends and I leave San Antonio I’ll be playing on a Russian club team for the next three years.
KM: So because you’re playing over there, you qualify to be on their national team?
BH: Yes. They’re getting me dual citizenship, and a passport.
KM: We’re on friendlier terms with them, but we’ll have to see if we’re true friends …
BH: Well, we need to be if we want cheap oil. My goal is to make the cost of oil drop.
I hope that was a joke, but seriously if you could ship a few barrels back to your forsaken homeland, that would help us out a lot.
You may be asking why Hammon doesn’t just play for good ole Team USA if she’s one of the leading scorers in the WNBA. It seems like she has been perpetually snubbed by the coaches on the team in previous years. She also got the impression she wouldn’t be given the time of day this year. After she ditched the later rounds of Olympic tryouts, some of the Team USA coaches called her "a traitor" and said she was "unpatriotic" for deciding to play for Russia.
So what was the big draw? Currently, Hammon earns, $95,000, the maximum WNBA salary playing in San Antonio, but the Russian club team that offered her a 4 year contact will gladly pay her over $500,000 a year. Would you turn down that money? Part of the reason for Hammon’s increased salary (in addition to her being friggin’ good as hell on the court. Proof: check out her D the crap out of this tall goon back when she was on the Liberty) is her willingness to apply for and be granted Russian citizenship. In the Russian women’s pro league, each team is only allowed two American players on their roster. Therefore, with an American chick becoming a Russian citizen, she won’t count against them and adds to the team value tremendously (this helped her get salary tripled).
Taking that logic one step further – with her newly claimed citizenship, Hammon was offered a spot on the Russian Women’s Olympic team (the coach of her club team is also the coach of the Olympic national team). According to an ESPN ‘Outside the Lines’ report, if Hammon leads her Russian team to a silver medal she will earn a $150,000 in bonus money, and if her medal winnings turn out to be gold she’ll get a $250,000 bonus. Sweet deal, right?
Find out more about Becky’s "dubious" deal in this clip from the ESPN report:
Personally, I applaud Becky for making this decision. No one likes to see athletes getting naturalized to play for other countries. But Americans never have a problem when we’re on the receiving end. No one seemed to have a problem when players like Hakeem Olajuwon became a naturalized citizen in 1993 in order to play on the 1996 Dream Team.
So what’s your take on the Becky Hammon situation? Would you pass up a potential $250,000 bonus and a guaranteed spot on a foreign Olympic team to ‘honor your country’? Hammon is playing up the ‘snubbed by her coaches and still wanting to play on any Olympic team’ angle, but it’s really just a business decision. And can you blame her? With the amount of disrespect the WNBA gets in this country and the pitiful salaries, you’ve gotta go where you can get paid, right?
Give us a shout in the comments section.
ESPN: Olympic Opportunity Too Much For Hammon To Pass Up, June 5, 2008
ESPN Magazine: Outtakes Interview With Becky Hammon, June 2008
Becky Hammon: Official Website