This article can also be seen at The Boston Celtics New Station.
I think a player's team has the right to say NO.
Though I am very proud to be an American and very patriotic, I do not feel that the Olympics should trump a team's right to deny a player approval over its players' desire to play in the Olympics.
The NBA is a business like any other. When a team is paying its stars 20+ million, such as with Kobe Bryant, a team has hinged its entire financial future on that player. Finances have become (almost) as big a part of the game as the talent level of its players.
A serious injury to Kobe during the summer of 2008 could have wiped away the Lakers chance at winning their 15th title. I am not even going to dive into the amount of play Kobe had between the 2008 NBA finals and the Olympics before even lacing up for the 2009 season.
With that in mind, I do not think it is unreasonable for NBA teams to put stipulations in its stars' contracts to ban them from competing in the Olympics. Though in recent years, the USA has not held up well against the world's competition, their is no question that, win or loss, the USA has the best basketball players in the world.
I would be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy watching the redeem team blow through the rest of the world's competition. However, I would not risk the health of my superstar to stroke my own or his ego.
Prior to the original Dream Team's bid to bring glory back to USA basketball, NBA players were not allowed to compete. We all knew that no team in the world could play with the likes of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, etc. Whether our team consisted of NBA legends or college stars, there was no question that as a whole the USA controlled the market on basketball.
I loved watching the Dream Team destroy the rest of the world in 1992. Let's face it though, that team was more of a traveling celebrity tour then it was a determined basketball team. I found more entertainment value in watching Bird, Magic and Michael in a photo shoot or Barkley and Ewing hamming it up on the bus trips then the actual play on the court.
There is no doubt that watching the US destroy the rest of the world's opponents by 50 points was fun the first five games. But it became expected after the fifth game, not to imply it was any less fun, it was just expected.
It was fun watching the opposing team looking at Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson goofing off during warm ups in complete amazement. It was great for my ego as a proud American who loves basketball.
So.. should NBA teams have the right to stop its stars from playing in the Olympics?
I do not feel that NBA players should be banned from competition completely, but I do believe that a team should reserve the right to stop its stars from playing with contract stipulations.
Take Yao Ming for example. Yao competed in the 2008 Olympics only to see his China team lose to Lithuania. Yao, and his 2009 (15 million dollar) pay check, returned to Houston only to have another (possibly) career ending injury strike him down in the playoffs as the Rockets were looking to upset the Lakers.
Should the Rockets have a right to say "if I am paying you 14 million dollars I do not want you to wear any other uniform than our Rockets"?
I say yes. What do you say?