On Olympics: Let LeBron James and Others Bail From Rio. These Women? Not a Chance.


Geno Auriemma, the United States’ women’s basketball coach, during an exhibition game on Friday. Diana Taurasi, second from left, is seeking her fourth Olympic gold medal.

Jessica Hill/Associated Press

The most credentialed backcourt mates in women’s basketball history are back, and of course they are. Certified gym rats do not abandon ship, even one that might be unsinkable without them.

“It’s such a rewarding experience,” Sue Bird said before the United States women’s national team tuned up for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with a 104-89 victory over Australia on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. “Why wouldn’t you come back?”

“If they ask and you’re hopefully playing at that level, and you get a chance to play for the U.S., you just do it because it’s bigger than you,” said Diana Taurasi, a two-season teammate of Bird’s during a storied era at Connecticut at the turn of the century.

In the run-up to Rio, the athletes getting much of the attention have been those bailing on the Games, making personal judgment calls, committing no ethical crimes.

Now it is time to forget those who are abstaining and to focus on the folks going without fear or complaint. In the cases of Taurasi, Bird and their Olympic teammate Tamika Catchings, it is those who have heard the tales of certain woe and potential mayhem for the last dozen years and responded by asking, When do we leave?

“There’s always something leading up to the Olympics — it’s always something,” Bird said.

Taurasi nodded when reminded of her and Bird’s first Olympics, Athens in 2004. In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, she said, “There were moments where it was nasty. We’d ask for directions, and they would say, ‘We don’t speak Bush.’”

Taurasi being Taurasi, sardonically forthcoming, added:…

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