The “Dream Team” of 1992 and the “Redeem Team” of 2008 may be some of America’s proudest Olympic memories, but these star-studded basketball teams in the summer games may soon be a thing of the past.
As the London incarnation of the games draws ever closer, there’s growing rumblings that the NBA is considering partnering with FIBA to create a “World Cup of Basketball,” while preventing professional players over 23 from competing in the games.
While there may be plenty of fond memories of the USA’s gold medals in basketball, there’s one thing that is even sweeter to basketball officials: money.
The tournament would likely bring in millions, or even billions, of dollars through advertising support and TV contracts for the NBA. The International Olympics Committee provides the league with no compensation for its players participating in the games, and this has been a sore spot with many influential people in the industry, such as Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
This effort may seem like pure greed on the part of the NBA, but as America’s Olympic team for 2012 starts to take shape, it seems more and more like this might be the more practical suggestion.
The Olympics has always been attractive for players as both a way to represent their country and gain international exposure, but both of these factors appear to be growing less significant.
National pride is an important element of the games to be sure, and while there’s something unique about the Olympics, these players would still get the chance to wear “USA” on their uniforms in a world cup. Furthermore, as Chris Bosh’s withdrawal from the team last week demonstrates, it’s hard for these players to justify extending an already brutally long season for no reimbursement.
The notion of patriotic pride is a certainly a noble one, but it seems to be a quality that few players have very much of these days. When it comes down to it, the risk of injury or fatigue often overcomes any desire to wave the flag. In the proposed world cup, it would make sense that the players could be offered some form of reward for their efforts, in addition to playing for their country.
Additionally, the concept of going abroad for exposure is becoming antiquated as well. While players like Charles Barkley basked in the glow of Barcelona in 1992, and opened himself up to a whole new contingent of fans in the process, stars these days are often already a global enterprise.
If people like Bosh or Dwyane Wade weren’t already international brands, then they might be able to justify playing through injuries to earn the marketing dollars associated with such a journey. Instead, it’s highly doubtful that fans in China or France aren’t already intimately familiar with most of the players that would comprise the Olympic team.
There are certainly still problems associated with a world cup format, however.