Will Players Willingly Give Up Olympics?
In the same way Barcelona was a new Olympic frontier for the Dream Team, a basketball World Cup needs to be presented that way to the NBA’s current generation. No U.S. Olympic team will ever measure up to the Dream Team, and the players need to understand that there’s nothing more for them to accomplish at the Olympics — not in Brazil in 2016 or anywhere else under the sun or under the IOC’s five rings. The only way anyone henceforth will care about NBA All-Stars competing in the Olympics is when they lose. So after 20 years, it’s time to quit while you’re ahead.
The way the Dream Team made the Olympics their own, today’s NBA stars could take ownership anew of the world basketball stage at a World Cup tournament. They need to be sold on being the generation of American basketball players who neatly and triumphantly closed the 20-year window that was opened by the Dream Team in ’92. And instead of forever trying to live up to the Dream Team’s formidable legacy, they’d be in the unique position of forging their own.
Even with another gold medal, Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James), Carmelo (Anthony) and the rest will forever be history’s warmup band for the original Dream Team. Blazing a new trail is the only way Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Kyrie Irving will ever avoid the same fate.
Thus, the Olympics in basketball could go back to being what it is for gymnastics and swimming and the rest. New names every four years – Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin in Beijing, Ryan Lochte and Gabrielle Douglas in London, instead of just Kobe and LeBron forever. And the biggest American stars of the Olympics, the NBA stars, would choose to move on and conquer their own Mount Olympus in a basketball-only event that would give them top billing around the world.
If given a choice, and a reason besides money, the NBA’s stars would do the right thing. But they won’t be forced, won’t be shoved off the Olympic stage for expedience or profit. (David) Stern and the owners have the right idea, but the wrong argument. They created this monster with the Dream Team 20 years ago, and if they want to end it, they have to inspire the players to do it themselves.