Team USA Basketball Using Under-23 Squad Would Rob Fans of Olympic Joy

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Lebron James #6 of United States stands on the court in the first half against Nigeria during the Men's Basketball Preliminary Round match on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Basketball Arena on August 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

NBA commissioner David Stern's recent idea of a possible 23-and-under Olympic basketball squad has received mixed reviews, and fans are the ones who would lose the most.

Stern's proposal for a younger Team USA is part of his push for the NBA to shift its most prominent veteran stars to a revenue-producing FIBA World Cup. The NBA would have more control over profit sharing than it currently does at the Olympics.

A fresh roster of young talent each Olympics has its pros and cons for the NBA.

Established stars would be protected from injury and be well rested for their NBA seasons and cash-supplying FIBA events, but one of the major downsides of the proposal is how much it would rob fans of the ultimate Olympic team.

Although a 23-and-under roster doesn't sound so bad—the roster would still be stocked with exceptional athletes—it would deprive fans of seeing their longtime favorites.

It's always good for us to watch and learn about new and up-and-coming ballers, but there are plenty of other opportunities for that. The United States' basketball program should focus on assembling the best possible team to represent the country.

This summer, it's been awesome to see Kobe Bryant and LeBron James do battle together under one flag. Their return to Olympic play to defend their 2008 gold rush is entertaining and evokes a sense of pride in all NBA fans who watch them every year.

If the 23-and-under rule were in effect this year, there would be no Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler or Andre Iguodala. And most importantly, there would be no LeBron or Kobe. The United States would still send a great group, but it wouldn't be the same.

What about four years from now? If the idea became a reality for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, standouts such as Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin wouldn't get a chance to play in their first Olympics. Not to mention the ousting of possible returnees like the Oklahoma City Thunder trio.

Who wouldn't want Kevin Durant or Griffin to shine at the 2016 Games?

For fans, the Summer Games are an opportunity to watch a collection of the best basketball players from the NBA turn into the best basketball team on the globe. The experienced competitors lead the young guns, and the young guns push the household names.

Watching the veteran stars play with tomorrow's talent is a beautiful thing.

It's awesome to see Paul toss an alley-oop to Anthony Davis or Kobe receive a pass from a driving Russell Westbrook. The energy and explosiveness of the youth isn't as potent without the steady hand of seasoned pros.

When you think about it, ages 23 to 28 are generally a basketball player's prime years. It would be a shame to leave players in their prime out of the sport's most important global event.

That would shortchange not only American fans, but millions of other fans worldwide who are captivated by the hardwood prowess of the USA's best.

I've always been of the mindset that the Olympics should feature the absolute best performers in each sport. Ditching this format and shifting the stars to a potential World Cup would be a mistake, and it would lose sight of the magnitude of the Olympic Games.