NBA commissioner David Stern is a fan of age limits, and not just those pertaining to who can and cannot jump into his own league's draft.
In a conversation with ESPN's Colin Cowherd on Tuesday, Stern suggested that he would be in favor of an age ceiling of sorts to dictate who can and can't play for Team USA in future Summer Olympics: "My own view is that post-London, we should be thinking about even what soccer does and make it 23 and under."
Stern went on to mention that the NBA doesn't encourage its players to participate and has even contemplated placing restrictions on all of its members, regardless of national origin:
“The problem is that it's so [ingrained] into the international players that they just always play. And so we were contemplating, even back in the day when we thought we maybe wouldn't allow NBA players to go, that would have deprived us of Yao Ming because the Chinese government never would have let him come to play (in the NBA). And the international players were going anyway. So then it would apply only to American players? So we found ourselves in a bit of an interesting dilemma with the whole thing.”
At first glance, Stern's stance may seem antithetical to his expressed goal of spreading the NBA to every corner of the globe. After all, what better way to expand the footprint of his star-driven league than by featuring said stars on the worldwide stage at the Olympics?
Of course, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant won't be playing for their respective squads in London, which is precisely where the crux of Stern's argument originates. His job, first and foremost, is to represent and advance the interests of the 30 teams in his league and, by extension, the entities that own them.
Those owners don't stand to benefit from seeing their franchise cornerstones play for free overseas. If anything, the owners—and the league as a whole—can only lose by sending older stars to the Olympics.
The grind of a full season takes enough of a toll on the bodies of all players, be they superstars or bench warmers. Having those players—particularly the older ones, whose bodies have borne the brunt of more wear and tear—participate in high-stakes summer tournaments puts them at greater risk of fatigue and injury.
The effects of which can and do carry over into the NBA season and degrade the league's product as a result.
Few basketball fans in America would argue against watching a team of superstars take on the world over the summer, if only to fill the hoops-less void left over after the NBA Finals.
But how would Lakers fans feel if Kobe came down with another knee injury while playing across the pond? Or Heat fans if LeBron and Dwyane Wade tired out after a pair of deep playoff runs capped off by a taxing trip to the gold-medal podium?
We all know the NBA wouldn't be too happy to see its superstars beaten to a pulp in a competition that doesn't directly serve its own interests.
And it's not as though there aren't enough pairs of young American legs in the league to fill a competitive roster. Just look at the group of current 23-and-under ballers that Royce Young of CBSSports.com put together:
PG: Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, John Wall
SG: James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry
SF: Kevin Durant, Thaddeus Young
PF: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin
C: Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins
Not bad. With a bit of team-building under the auspices of Mike Krzyzewski, this group would be a solid bet to bring home the gold this summer.
I, for one, won't argue with watching some of the best players in the NBA play the role of a bully this summer. What hoophead in his or her right mind would turn down the opportunity to see a squad stocked with future Hall of Famers reassert American dominance in the world of sports?
That being said, I wouldn't want my precious NBA left bloodied and bruised at the expense of a couple weeks of glorious competition.
So, for once, I can agree with David Stern, even if my conclusion is dictated by fandom and his by financial fealty.