When Dwyane Wade suggested that players should be paid for Olympic participation, he was lambasted in the press. When some of the best American players sat out the 2000 and 2004 Olympics they were harangued for their lack of patriotism. When David Stern and the NBA owners floated the idea of pulling superstars from the games, (or most superstars, as their proposal called for Olympic basketball to be a 23 and under event) there was nothing but crickets.
The NBA is a superstar driven league. Olympic basketball has now become a superstar driven event, and as Mark Cuban told Yahoo! Sports: “The Olympics are a huge for-profit endeavor, it makes no sense that NBA owners subsidize it."
By “subsidize,” Cuban is referring to the NBA allowing its highly paid marque players to suit up for national teams. David Stern, Mark Cuban, and many other league owners have dudgeon over the fact that their biggest investments are being used by the games, yet they do not see a cent in return.
This is the same line of reasoning that the players used when opting out of the Olympics or suggesting they get paid. Every second that a superstar plays basketball, he runs the risk of blowing out his knee and never being able to earn another contract. NBA players opt-out of the Olympics because they view their basketball talents as their main, if not only, commodity and do not want to risk losing it over an unpaid event. This is deemed unpatriotic.
NBA owners are millionaires, some even billionaires, yet when they do not want to sacrifice one of their many investments for their country, or let international players sacrifice for theirs, the media, and public in general remain eerily silent.
What makes the NBA’s new position all the more sickening is that the 1992 dream team, and the exposure NBA players at the Olympics gave basketball was a huge boon for the league. It allowed the NBA to break into European and Chinese markets, as well as enrich the league with an influx of foreign talent. It seems as if the NBA milked the Olympics dry, and is now prepared to leave it in the dust.
The apex of basketball is not an Olympic gold medal, but an NBA championship, yet NBA players were publicly skewered when they refused to participate in the games. They were called selfish, ungrateful and spoiled. The popular refrain was that it is an honor to play for your country and scorning a call from team USA was shameful. The lack of criticism directed at NBA owners for wanting to neuter Team USA in order to earn a buck is nothing short of baffling.