David Stern and NBA owners have proposed a 23-and-under Olympic basketball roster to limit the amount of NBA players involved. Stern's proposal is a huge embarrassment for the NBA and American basketball.
When Team USA arrived in England a few a weeks ago, Kobe Bryant and other players were quick to dismiss the proposal as a bad idea, saying simply that "It's a stupid idea" (via ESPN).
Each country would be able to utilize three overaged players on their rosters under the proposal. All players would be eligible to play in the FIBA World Championships (every four years, opposite to summer Olympic schedule). The World Championship would be partnered with the NBA in order to pay the owners for the services of their players.
One of the reasons Stern wants to change the tournament is that too many of his players are risking injuries by playing.
If a player, let's say Deron Williams, gets hurt in the final quarter of a Team USA blowout win, this would significantly impact the Brooklyn Nets next season. They would suffer on the court, which would hurt the NBA's wallet.
But if money is the big issue for Stern, shouldn't he be more concerned about the continued growth of the game globally? Basketball isn't just an American sport anymore. Basketball is spreading like wildfire throughout the globe.
Sending an American team filled with young NBA players and college students won't excite the international world. It keeps top-level basketball as strictly the NBA's game.
Some may point to Team USA being too dominant.
An under-23 tournament would heavily favor Team USA as well. Teams like Spain, Argentina and Brazil feature some top-tier NBA players, most of whom are over the age of 23.
Yesterday, Russia's and Lithuania's coaches blasted the proposal.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Russian coach David Blatt spoke to Yahoo! Sports about Stern's proposal, saying:
I would hope that the countries would be in an uproar about this. Who is one country to determine for everyone how international basketball should be played, and particularly how the Olympic Games should be managed? It’s not supposed to be like that. If it’s a global game, it’s a global game.
Blatt is on the mark the with his comments. Basketball has become a global game. The NBA isn't bringing the game to the world anymore; the game has already been brought to the world.
The NBA still capitalizes from the Olympic Games despite players not being paid to compete. The tournament takes the form of an international tryout for players who would not be able to sniff the NBA otherwise.
And what about the players from foreign countries that get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play against players like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant? Regardless of the result, that's an incredible experience that the NBA would be taking away.
Changing the tournament takes away from the tradition that is Olympic and Team USA basketball. The comparisons between the Dream Team and the 2012 team have been ridiculous, but it shows the importance that people put on Team USA basketball.
America may have invented the game of basketball and may currently dominate the sport, but the game isn't ours. We brought it to the world and it's a global game now. Stern needs to accept the fact that he runs the NBA, not basketball.
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