The Indiana Pacers can’t seem to catch a break. They went from NBA dream team to having one of the most toxic environments in professional sports. When Lance Stevenson left for greener pastures most thought things had hit rock bottom for Larry Legend and his squad. Indiana fans will now likely refer to those as the glory years after Paul George broke his leg while training with team USA. (If you are a glutton for punishment search “Paul George injury”. Just make sure you aren’t eating!)
However, this is not a sob story for the Indiana Pacers. In fact I could care less if the team ever contends for an NBA championship. Instead this tackles the question; should NBA athletes be playing in international competition? The short and sweet answer, No!
The easiest explanation is the same reason why the NFL is once again looking to expand their schedule, and beer at the stadium costs you $8 a cup. Plain and simple everything in professional sports comes down to the bottom line.
Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban came out last week championing the call for change when it comes to the IOC. Cuban had the stones to say what many owners are likely thinking; why should I risk the health of my players without cashing in on the rewards? New stadiums, corporate sponsorships, and lucrative TV deals have turned the NBA and other leagues alike into money printing machines. Throw in jersey sales, and the price of admission and you’ll realize Mark Cuban has a point. Basketball has become an international sport, and if you’re being truly honest with yourself what means more, a 15th Olympic gold medal or your team raising that championship banner?
It’s tough to find someone who will argue NBA owners need another source of income. So let’s move our focus to the games themselves. The 2012 London Olympics saw the, “Dream Team Round Two” and seemed more like a formality than a competition. Team USA went a perfect 8-0, set a single game record for points, and finished with a 32 point average margin of victory.
Want more evidence America is still hands down the basketball capital of the world? This year 92 players from 39 different countries will leave their family and friends to play in the NBA. The league still showcases the world’s top talent and uses other countries as a feeder system for undeveloped players. It’s time to tip our cap to the red, white, and blue and focus turning these international games back into a competition. People will still watch even without the NBA stars. I mean bird watching could attract a following as long as you pit countries against each other and name a clear cut winner.
The final hurdle lies now with the players. These are guys who live to play basketball, and convincing them to watch from the couch is not going to be easy. However, the NBA is a monarchy. You may have 30 owners and 439 players (Not that I’m counting), but every one of them still answers to a single man. I’m not going to try and hammer out the logistics, but if Adam Silver wanted to keep NBA guys out of these games he could do so. Plus if team USA ever saw an early exit we could always bring back the “Dream Team” part three.