By far the most popular athletes on the most popular team in the 2012 Olympics may not be back in four years.
It would be another example of greed and money ruling sports, and it would be a shame.
Pride has been restored to the USA Olympic Basketball team, where the game’s biggest superstars now care about winning gold again and are so dominant the task looks relatively easy. But Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wonders why the NBA is letting the Olympics make a huge profit while using its athletes. Instead, Cuban suggested making Team USA a 23-and-under club again for the Olympics, while the NBA makes more money forming a “World Cup”-caliber tournament with their best players representing the U.S.
Cuban’s idea is based on the notion that this new “Basketball World Cup” will be wildly successful, because, after all, this is about money. Soccer’s World Cup is much more popular than Olympic soccer, but it also is a sport much older and established than basketball, with the most fans worldwide. This wouldn’t happen with a basketball tournament overnight. It would take years before the tournament built up enough viewership and credibility to make it worthwhile, even with the world’s greatest player. Plus, it would probably be a tournament held every four years, yet you wouldn’t want to compete in Olympic or soccer’s World Cup years, when the audience already has a love affair on TV.
Just look at the 2010 FIBA World Championships. Team USA consisted of NBA giants* Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala and so on, yet that worldwide basketball tournament is miles behind the coverage and attention of Olympic basketball this year. I haven’t heard players pass on the chance for an Olympic gold medal to rest and possibly win a FIBA World Championship trophy. It just doesn’t compare.
Having Team USA comprised of NBA stars is good for the Olympics and it is good for the sport. As I mentioned in a previous column on the Dream Team, having the best players at the Olympics can only strengthen the game internationally as more people watch how great the sport can be.
You already have the spotlight on the world’s biggest sporting stage, so why leave? For a little more cash? The NBA already has a stigma as being a greedy league, so instead take one month of every four years to put pride in your country and your sport ahead of your love of money.
* Giants now, not necessarily then.
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