Almanac Basketball: Loud Liz is a big loss in only one way

BASKETBALLER Liz Cambage is the most disappointing big-name personality in Australian sport – by a long way.


Happily, this is not a title for which there is much competition – especially among our female athletes.


Could there be any more stark contrast in personality, attitude, popularity, and self-awareness — maybe even achievement — than her and recently retired tennis champion Ash Barty, or plenty of others such as soccer superstar Sam Kerr or any number of swimmers, cricketers and … well, just about any cohort you wish to name.


Cambage, 30, is a complete outlier, other than that she is very, very good at what she does – probably the best Australian female hoops player since Lauren Jackson.


But at the peak of her powers she is never going to wear the green and gold again – and as far as her old team-mates are concerned, good riddance.


Recently retired captain Jenna O’Hea  didn’t exactly say it that bluntly but it was clear that was what she meant when she called Cambage out on TV, confirming that the controversial star had told her Nigerian opponents to “get back to your third world country” during a heated pre-Olympics match last year.


It was, of course, a racist remark, astonishingly so given that she is half-Nigerian herself and was playing alongside another girl with that heritage, Ezi Magbegor.


It seems this was only the tip of the iceberg.


If it was a an isolated one-off, there would be no reason for the Opals and Basketball Australia not to say so. But in the months since, they have never said that. You have to suspect that they are biting their tongues big-time.


The two biggest names in men’s basketball, retired superstars Andrew Bogut and Andrew Gaze, have been much less reticent.


Bogut said Cambage’s sledge was “much worse than that, disgusting, beyond despicable” and Gaze – who has never spoken ill of anyone – said her outrageous behaviour was an insult to everyone who had ever represented Australia. Ouch!


It’s a shame it has come to this because I can remember interviewing Cambage when she was a shy  young, tongue-tied early teenager – half her lifetime ago – whose unusually powerful physique and obvious talent were clearly going to take her a long way in the game, which of course they have.


When she developed enormous confidence in herself and her extrovert personality linked with her status on the court, she had all she needed to become one of Australia’s most recognisable and admired sports heroes, with all the rewards that brings.


The Opals believed she was potentially the difference between them winning the elusive and coveted Olympic gold medal, which would have elevated her to even headier heights – but it’s never going to happen now.


A golden opportunity, literally, has come and gone.


Does she care?


It doesn’t seem so.


She claims the national team never supported her properly anyway, which they furiously deny, and so she is, she says, “living my best life” by parading her lucrative skills in the big-time American WNBA apparently with no plans to grace the Australian club scene again.


No regrets, it seems.


Whether there ever will be on her part remains to be seen, but regardless of their opinions of her now the Australian hoops community will forever wonder what might have been.


Interestingly, when I asked my few followers on Twitter the other day to nominate any other candidates for the “most disappointing” tag there was really only one other name that came up, and it was another basketballer.


That would be Ben Simmons, whose hugely promising career has stalled in the NBA for a range of dubious reasons, and who has been reluctant to make himself available for the country of his birth, apparently identifying more as an American, which his father was.


Frustrated Australian hoops fans have dropped off him big-time, while he continues to count his millions from the sidelines.


Tennis rebel Nick Kyrgios got a mention or two, and while his disinclination to throw everything he’s got into making the most of his prodigious talent irks a lot of people, he has enough good points to take him out of this conversation.


And spare me his old colleague Bernard Tomic – he’d have “won” this title hands down a few years ago but is no longer relevant enough to be worth talking about.


We should be grateful that the Cambages of the world are so few and far between – and that the Bartys et al are not.



Read more from Ron Reed HERE.



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  1. Interesting read Ron. My take is that people who are so oppositional/defiant generally lack self-confidence. The outward aggression is a defence (anticipatory retaliation as the military strategists call it) against anyone getting close enough to crack that inner fragility.
    I’d still have Nick Kyrgios high on my list. He has positive attributes, but his ongoing flakiness and self destruction is notable. His net comment to Stan Wawrinka a few years ago is about the most detestable sledge I’ve heard.
    My guess is we cut Kyrgios more slack because in an individual sport he mainly damages himself.
    Dare we mention Sally Robbins? My guess is that was a one off and an unfortunate case of stage fright on the biggest occasion.
    Can I nominate Jack Darling? He has done a good job of dragging his West Coast Eagles team mates down around him with his self absorption and lack of effort.

  2. The Great White Shark?

  3. Certainly getting into that territory. I have said more about his crassness in the full version of this column, which is – or soon will be up on sportshounds. Com. Au or my facebook page.

  4. When Chris Evert got ovarian cancer it was her first husband at her bedside – not Greg Norman. ‘Nuff said. Greg doesn’t just support Donald Trump – he wants to emulate him.

  5. Philippoussis, or however you spell it? Tomic agreed, too. I have been a basketball player, coach, umpire and follower for, gasp, 58 years now and she wins in our sport, hands down. There were times when I was not a big fan of Shane Heal, but he never sank this low. Cambage simply has no commitment to the people who nurtured her from very young. She took all the help the AIS and Australia could give her, then basically just spat in our faces. Lauren Jackson and a horde of others would leave her for dead; I have always been a fan of Sandy Brondello and Rachael Sporn would be first into my Hall of Fame.

    A 20 minute break has not brought forth any more names. In relation to Norman, during his playing time, what irritated me was his common predictions about what he was gunnado, followed by an inability to do it…

  6. In July 1993 I sat glued to the TV in the bar at a golf club house (the name escapes me but it was somewhere near Reading, about 15 miles out of London) as Greg Norman saw off overnight leader Corey Pavin, universally recognised Next Big Thing Ernie Els, compatriot Peter Senior, world no 4 at the time Bernhard :Langer, and finally world Numero Uno Nick Faldo to claim the Open (and Faldo’s No 1 spot) at Royal St George in Kent. I had been on the course following him around on the Friday, when starting the day as joint leader with Senior he did well to stay within reach as Faldo marched over the course like the Lord overlooking his manor, shooting an imperious 65. On the Sunday, Norman’s 64 to win the Open was the best round of golf I have ever seen to that point.

    Unfortunately, two and a half years later I was also one of about 10 million Australians to rise at 5am for the last day of the 1996 Masters, and waste a ‘sick day’ to watch the same man play the WORST round I had seen , and that includes several of mine at Ringwood Municipal. At that moment, I (and I estimate many others) realised I had had this bloke up to the neck. Thus banished to the extreme outside of my sphere of interest, every public pronouncement of his that momentarily drew my attention since has reinforced that feeling. Ties man is more embarrassment and more trouble than he can ever possibly be worth.;

  7. Hayden Kelly says

    For me the Great White Grub is the winner to quote Jack Styring ‘by as far as you could kick a jam tin’ . His losses in big tournaments are now high up on my great moments in Australian sport list .

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