It leaves no doubt who the biggest of all the shoe giants in the world and that’s the Swoosh. According to a 2014 Business Insider report, almost 2 out of 3 NBA players wear Nike and if its subsidiary– the Jordan brand is included– Nike’s share will go to as much as 72%.
Nike also sponsors the United States Olympic basketball teams but how big is the shoe giant’s influence over the decisions? It’s not conclusive, but it could be big– so big that the women’s team may have left off one of their erstwhile leaders because she was wearing the Three Stripes.
As the final team for the 2016 Olympics was close to being officially announced last Wednesday, word got out early in the week that longtime WNBA star Candace Parker would be left off of the final roster headed to Rio De Janeiro later this summer.
Parker has worn adidas for over a decade, dating back to her time as a phenom at the then-adidas-sponsored University of Tennessee and upon entering the WNBA as the top overall pick in 2008. As executives at rival sneaker brands have long complained about Nike’s access and influence over the US team, Parker’s exclusion marks the first time that some feel the roster slight goes beyond basketball reasons.
Just after her MVP rookie season in the WNBA, Parker played for the 2008 Olympic team, showcasing her versatility and all-around game that was taking the league by storm. When UCONN head coach Geno Auriemma took over the women’s team coaching duties in 2012 at the London Olympics, Parker curiously wasn’t named a starter. She still led the team in rebounds and blocks, finished third in scoring, and also went on to win WNBA MVP again the very next year.
Now thirty years-old, Parker indeed missed the first half of the most recent WNBA season due to injury, but returned to her old ways once back on the court, averaging 19.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists while carrying her Los Angeles Sparks to the postseason.
Just last October, Parker also headlined the US team during the four-game string of its European tour, leading the group in minutes played, rebounds, blocks and assists. Sixth months later, she’s no longer a member on the national team.
“Like her, we were surprised and disappointed to hear the decision that she won’t be representing her country in Rio,” an adidas spokesperson tells Nice Kicks. “There’s no doubt by us or her fans across the globe that she’s one of the best players in the world.”
Officially, according to sources close to Parker, she was given two reasons for not being included on the final roster. Parker was told she was no longer the best player at her position, with that nod presumably going to Elena Delle Donne. She was also told she “didn’t match up well with Australia.” Parker was said to be floored by the reasoning.
“I was surprised and disappointed,” Parker told the AP about her initial reaction.
Whatever it was, Parker still wishes the team good luck and is very positive of a sixth consecutive gold medal.