The following article is a guest contribution by Benjamin Haynes, Esq. Haynes is a former Division 1 Basketball Player at Oral Roberts University and currently practices law in the State of Florida.
The twelve men of the USA basketball team stood tall with gold medals around their neck and their hand across their chest as their country’s flag ascended and the National Anthem played. It was a special moment, not only for those players, but for our country.
Recently, David Stern proposed an idea on implementing an age limit of 23-and-under for the future Summer Olympic basketball games. Stern and many NBA owners believe that the NBA gains nothing from the Olympics. Further, the NBA owners are extremely fearful that their NBA star players will suffer an injury that will then hamper their upcoming NBA seasons. While the owners are fearful of injury, Stern is concerned about the NBA’s lost income. With cutting out NBA players over 23 from the Olympics, Stern would turn the NBA’s attention towards the World Cup, where the NBA could potentially make billions of dollars and the players could see profit.
While the owners have a legitimate concern about their players’ health, players are never forced to play in the Olympics. Further, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, who all would have been on this year’s Olympic team, did not participate due to health related issues. Nobody faulted them for not trying to play through an injury. Sure, guys like Lebron, Kobe, and Durant, who are healthy, would all be frowned upon should they decline to participate in the Olympics. Yet none of them have hinted at not wanting to compete. After winning bronze in 2004, Lebron and Carmelo committed to team USA and brought back gold to America in the 2008 games, earning the label, the “redeem team.”
Money should never determine whether our players will play in the Olympics Games. The tradition and history of the USA men’s basketball play has been an incredible spectacle of sporting greatness, and the pride that comes with such tradition is unmatched. After the final game of the 2012 Summer Olympics, Lebron stated, “But this right here, it means more than myself, it means more than my name on my back. It means everything to the name on the front. I’m happy that I was able to contribute to this great team. It’s one of the best teams ever.” To this day, the 92’ USA men’s basketball team is considered to be the greatest team to ever be assembled in any sport. Where else do you have opposing players asking for autographs during and after the game? That’s the greatness that is brought to the forefront when America’s top stars come together unified and play with one common goal. A gold medal.
The point is that the Olympic Games are about athletes representing their country to the best of their ability. That means countries placing their best teams they have out on the floor. While the players are not paid to play in the Olympic Games, most of these players truly want the experience of representing their county in the Olympics. Just ask any of the twelve USA basketball players who stood tall in London. Further, ask Spain as well. While Spain’s players received the second place silver medal, there is no disputing that those players were extremely proud about representing their country. After the final game, Pau Gasol stated, “We fought for 40 minutes. I am proud of having another Olympic medal around my neck.”
Further, placing our best players on display for the entire world to see is great notoriety for the NBA itself. This year, there were 40 NBA players representing their countries in the Olympics. The rules should stay intact. Let the players choose whether or not they want to compete in the Olympics. Yes, it is a big commitment for these players, who are already playing a long NBA season beforehand, and yes, there is potential for these players to suffer severe injury, but don’t take that choice away from the superstars themselves. When Kobe Bryant was asked about David Stern’s proposed rule change, he stated, “It’s a stupid idea.” Don’t fix what isn’t broken, David. USA basketball is on top of the basketball world, keep the rules as they are and allow more history to be made in the future by letting the best represent.