Legendary 1996 women’s Olympic team honored at WNBA All-Star Game

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The location lights dimmed Wednesday betwixt the 3rd and 4th quarters astatine Michelob Ultra Arena. And the spotlights shined onto members of the 1996 U.S. nationalist women’s hoops team.

Time for them to get their flowers.

Real flowers. Not the metaphorical ones.

The WNBA honored the 1996 squad during the WNBA All-Star Game with a little ceremonial earlier the 4th quarter. Members of this year’s nationalist squad presented their predecessors with bouquets successful solemnisation of the 25-year day of the U.S. team’s dazzling show successful Atlanta that resulted successful the golden medal. That squad is often credited with inspiring the inception of the WNBA, besides celebrating its 25th season.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert expressed a akin sentiment Wednesday during a quality league earlier the game.

“We wouldn’t beryllium present if it wasn’t for them and the instauration they acceptable for us,” Olympian and Washington Mystics defender Ariel Atkins said. “It’s ever peculiar for maine personally erstwhile I’m capable to grant the women that came earlier me.”

The United States finished 3rd successful the 1992 Olympics and the 1994 World Championships, prompting an unprecedented accent connected grooming and improvement earlier the 1996 Olympics. The Americans embarked connected a satellite circuit to hole for Atlanta, traveling and playing 52 accumulation games against apical assemblage programs and different countries.

They did not suffer a game, winning by an mean borderline of 45.2 points. They cruised done radical play successful Atlanta and coasted done the tourney bracket. A 111-87 triumph implicit Brazil clinched the golden medal, opening a streak of six consecutive golden medals that this year’s radical volition transportation into Tokyo.

“We were connected a ngo to triumph a golden medal,” said Jennifer Azzi, a constituent defender connected the 1996 team. “We knew that we were showing the American nationalist and the satellite the adjacent level of women’s basketball.”

Azzi revealed that Lisa Leslie, a Team USA fable and erstwhile Los Angeles Sparks star, spoke to this year’s Olympic squad earlier the WNBA All-Star Game, sharing that Leslie talked astir the bequest of USA Basketball.

The 1996 squad started it. The onus is connected the 2021 squad to proceed it.

“We had to beryllium to radical that we tin play basketball,” said Ruthie Bolton-Holifield, a defender connected the 1996 team. “Things evolved for women’s sports. It’s conscionable been amazing. I’m blessed to person been portion of the legacy. Part of the foundation. … We changed past for women’s basketball.”

Contact newsman Sam Gordon astatine sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon connected Twitter.

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