Toss patriotism in the dumpster. The NBA is too big to play for love of country. Here comes David Stern, the grinch determined to steal a sweet hoops dream from the Olympics.
By imposing a maximum age limit on Olympic rosters, Stern wants to kick out LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki from the Summer Games. That might make Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban happy.
But it would be bad for basketball. During the past 20 years, Olympic competition has raised the game’s profile around the world higher than anything since a gravity-defying dunk by Michael Jordan.
Remember when basketball in America was a source of sports shame? Stern and too many people in the NBA have apparently forgotten.
“I want people to recognize what USA Basketball and its participation in the Olympics has done for the players individually, what it has done for the NBA and what we’ve done for the interest in basketball on a worldwide basis. I’m talking about NBA people, team owners. Some get it. Some don’t want to get it,” said Jerry Colangelo, who took over the direction of Team USA seven years ago, when the nation’s hoops reputation was in tatters.
By recruiting the best and brightest Americans in the sport, Colangelo made it cool again to wear U.S. colors on the free-throw line. In its past 55 games, the record of the men’s national team is 54-1.
When the U.S. men open tournament play Sunday against France, it figures to be the beginning of the end of Olympic basketball as we know it. This is not to suggest Stern has zero allegiance to the red, white and blue.
But his real loyalty gets cozy under the covers with green. The NBA commish is driven by the bottom line.
Twenty years after the Dream Team, this Olympic basketball tournament is just starting to get good. There’s no guarantee the USA will win. Heck, Argentina took home gold in 2004. All across Spain there’s smack talk about bouncing the Americans from the top of the podium this year.
Stern, however, wants all the fun to end.
The motivation for the NBA putting the kibosh has nothing to do with concern for its high-paid superstars getting hurt by playing too much basketball. That notion is pure hypocrisy, Colangelo suggested. If health were the issue, we would have never witnessed a condensed NBA schedule that led to Chicago superstar Derrick Rose ripping up his knee in the playoffs.
What Stern wants to do is steal a page from soccer, and promote the freshly named World Cup of Basketball, making that tournament bigger than the Olympics. Why? Three answers: 1) money, 2) power, and 3) more money. You can bet the NBA would control the cash register at the tourney of Stern’s dreams.
Bottom line: Stern wants to tear down the Olympics to build up the World Cup.
U.S. vs. France
P Sunday, 7:30 a.m.
TV • NBCSN