Criticism of Swimmer's Patriotic Display is Absurd
Criticism of Swimmer's Patriotic Display is Absurd
From the page: ""the lungs govern skin and hair,"
From the page: "ing the end of the NBA's participation in the Olympics.
[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
Robert Deutsch-USA Today Sports/US PresswireKobe Bryant has been a vocal supporter of the current system for Olympic basketball.
When NBA commissioner David Stern mentioned just before the start of the Games that the NBA might favor Olympic basketball becoming a 23-and-under competition, he reignited a bigger conversation than he cared to. Kobe Bryant, the clear and undisputed leader of the players on this U.S. team, immediately called the idea "stupid" and after Sunday's tournament-opening victory over France, saying, "The Olympics are all about putting your very best athletes into the competition. This shouldn't even be a topic for discussion."
Oh, but it is. Stern told USA Today, "Nothing is definitive. All we're talking about is the issue, having taken stock 20 years after Barcelona. What is the best way to continue the growth of the game on a global basis? This is not an urgent issue. This is just an opportunity to have an intelligent conversation with our friends at FIBA."
But indications from people privy to the conversations say Stern already favors a way to continue that global growth, and it doesn't include keeping the likes of Kobe and LeBron in the Olympics; it's a soccer-style World Cup tournament. Even if Stern isn't personally in favor, his owners are -- which means officially he is, too. Why?
Money, of course.
To this point the conversation has centered largely on the notion that NBA teams assume far too much risk, mostly the wear and tear on players, a point of view given voice several years ago by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. But even USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, the most respected person in the international basketball community, said here in London this week, "That doesn't go far with me. I think our players are better protected being with us [in the summer]. We've never had an injury with USA Basketball. ... Players play on playgrounds in summer and are at greater risk. To represent your country on this stage has tremendous value to the league and tremendous value to the players."
So why bail on the Olympics?
In its own World Cup tournament, basketball wouldn't have to share the stage, hottest ticket or not, with swimming and gymnastics and track and field. The NBA and FIBA would stand to make tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. Neither makes a hill of beans off the Olympics, because the International Olympic Committee (and therefore the US Olympic Committee) makes it all. No doubt the league will be accused of greed, and perhaps fairly so. If the players threatened to skip the Olympics because they don't get paid for their labor (and risk injury), they'd be trashed publicly as greedy and unpatriotic. The owners, meanwhile, will mostly, if not entirely, skate on this issue of their patriotism. Regardless, there are those close to the commissioner who believe the World Cup is absolutely going to happen, it's just a matter of how soon after these London Games the announcement will be made.
So much for the notion of "if it ain't broke ..."
The players, in the moment, are vocal about their loyalty to the Olympics -- especially Bryant, Deron Williams and Chris Paul, who seem downright beholden to the movement. All say the physical risk argument should be dismissed "because it's never happened," Bryant said. "Quite the opposite. LeBron won three MVPs after he played on the Olympic team. I won two more championships ..." Bryant ticks off post-Olympic NBA accomplishments of half the players who participated on the gold-medal team in 2008. He's old enough, at 34, to remember vividly the Barcelona Dream Team, and all its historic participation in the Olympics did to raise the profile of basketball globally.
And Bryant makes a persuasive case. He has played with and against players who were wholly created by the worldwide explosion of basketball caused directly by the NBA players' presence in the Olympics. One of them is Dirk Nowitzki, who was playing handball and tennis, his best sport, until the '92 Barcelona experience inspired him to drop both and take basketball seriously.
The U.S. players also fear that other countries would still send players older than 23, while the U.S. would try to win the tournament with college players. That, Bryant said, "would mean we're in trouble. We want to win. You think guys under 23 versus the world would win? Come on, man."
But the NBA wouldn't be taking this action on behalf of just the U.S. team, but the entire league, and therefore the entire world. The entire tournament, not just the U.S. team, would be 23 and under -- the NBA's way of throwing a bone to the IOC while not pulling out altogether.
Here comes the cynical part of the program. Suppose in a World Cup format the players get to represent their countries, as they do in the Olympics, and get paid for doing so? Isn't th
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