In June 2020, Kelsey Plum ’13 tore her Achilles tendon while playing with her WNBA team, the Las Vegas Aces. The potentially career-ending injury sidelined the standout guard for the entire pandemic-abbreviated 2020 season. But Plum, the first overall selection in the 2017 WNBA draft, did not let the injury derail her determination to make it back on the court. She underwent surgery on her Achilles and then embarked on intensive rehabilitation efforts. And those efforts paid off. Exactly one year to the day that she took her first post-operative steps, Plum stood on top of the podium at the Tokyo Olympics, accepting a gold medal with her teammates in 3 × 3 basketball.
Tokyo was the first time the 3 × 3 event—which is played with a 12-second shot clock on a half-court—had appeared in the Olympics. Baskets inside the arc and free throws are worth one point, and baskets made from outside the arc are worth two points. The winner is the first team to score 21 points or the leading team at the end of the 10-minute game clock. The U.S. team had a strong showing throughout the tournament, losing only one game before defeating the Russian Olympic Committee by a score of 18–15 in the gold medal match. Plum was dominant throughout the team’s championship run: She was the tournament’s leading scorer, averaging 6.1 points per game.
Plum’s dominant performance was no surprise to anyone familiar with her previous on-court accomplishments. She led La Jolla Country Day School to the 2012 CIF Division IV state championship and scored an NCAA-record 3,527 points in her four seasons at Washington. After being picked first in the draft by the San Antonio Stars, she was named to the All-Rookie team. The Stars relocated to Las Vegas and changed their name to the Aces, and Plum played a key role in helping the team make the playoffs in 2019. When not with her WNBA team, Plum plays for Turkey’s Fenerbahçe, where she helped lead the team to two Turkish League championships and a Turkish Cup.