Team USA Basketball 2012: USA's Gold Medal Proves U-23 Rule Is Unnecessary
In what was the most difficult game of the tournament for Team USA, the Americans prevailed in spite of a tremendous performance from Spain in the gold medal final.
The United States (7-0) were supposed to walk all over an inferior Spanish team, but Spain (5-2) lost 107-100.
If not for LeBron James swiping Pau Gasol in the fourth quarter, a foul that had James at four for the game and on the bench, we very well could be talking about a different result.
Yet, it is just that point that deserves further consideration and proves that implementing a U-23 policy in the Olympics is not the way to go. There is a plethora of talent at the international level, and at the end of the day it is evident that having a U-23 policy will make the USA that much better than the rest of the world.
Yes, Team USA dominated the Olympics, and that is precisely what began the talks of a U-23 rule in the Olympics for men's basketball. Carmelo Anthony and the bunch were obliterating the competition, and going into the final with Spain, they actually had a greater margin of victory than did the Dream Team of 1992.
The talks were that Team USA was too good for the rest of the world, and head-to-head, comparing any other side to these players was brutally unfair.
For one, if one thing is clear as day, it's that a rule that only allows players younger than 23 to participate eliminates too much talent from the other teams of the world.
It would prevent a team such as Spain—whose top players in Pau Gasol (32), Marc Gasol (27), Jose Calderon (30) and Rudy Fernandez (27)—from even having a chance to take down Team USA. They wouldn't even be able to floor a competitive team.
The same goes for the other arguable gold medal contender in Argentina, who have Manu Ginobili (35), Carlos Delfino (29), Luis Scola (32) and Pablo Prigioni (35) from competing as well.
It also prevents the older, more experienced veterans from representing their countries and showing their appreciation for their nations prior to calling it quits. That is a symbolic and important moment for a lot of athletes in every sport, and age should not be able to overrule an athlete's wish to represent where they came from at the Games.
Yet more so than anything, it takes away from the competition and what these Games truly mean. Men's soccer, for example, has a U-23 limit with each team allowed to take three players who are older. Granted, it is a better version of a hard U-23 rule, but it also takes away from the level of competition.
Teams and fans of the game know that it is a game for the "younger players," and the excuses tend to pile high for why a team like Spain did not cruise by opponents in soccer's group play or why Brazil was topped by Mexico in the final.
The sport of basketball should never get to the point where fans ask whether it could have changed the outcome had there not been a U-23 rule. Not to mention that, a lot of the time, teams will simply elect not to bring their best players. Where was David Silva or Andres Iniesta? How about defender Sergio Ramos?
Spain proved in the gold medal final that, even though the outright beasts of the United States were heavy favorites, they still were able to play neck-and-neck with them up until the final buzzer. There is no question Spain could have come away with the win with two more solid minutes of play.
This is the very reason, the icing on the cake, for why basketball at the Games cannot take into consideration such a lackluster rule. Team USA is fantastic, but so is the rest of the world. They have made leaps and bounds over the last decade and will only continue to do so.
Trying to level the playing field by implementing an age limit is far from the answer.
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