LONDON (AFP) –
LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and other NBA stars are pleading their case to keep the Olympics from becoming a 23-and-under event but there are indications the superstars’ advice is falling upon deaf ears.
“It’s a stupid idea. Basically it’s a dumb idea and (Olympic players talk about) it that way,” Bryant said. “It should be a player’s choice. The Olympics is about putting the best players on that stage.”
NBA commissioner David Stern has said the 23-and-under Olympic format used by football would be a perfect model for basketball, NBA owners being unhappy they pay many millions of dollars to stars who risk injury for Olympic teams.
“Post-London Olympics, we want to step back. We want to take a long-term view of whether it makes sense for the NBA and for the game,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.
US NBA players would next compete in Barcelona at the 2014 Basketball World Cup, the former world championships renamed like its football counterpart.
Unless they win the world title, Americans would have to play in the 2015 Americas Tournament to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“No matter how old you are, if you want to play, you should be able to play. There should be no age limit,” said Carmelo Anthony. “We have laughed and joked about the next world championships and that is two years away.”
If it’s 23-and-under, NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant will not be there.
“I wouldn’t like that,” Durant said. “I would like to go to Barcelona and Brazil. I am 23 so I wouldn’t get that chance so hopefully it doesn’t change. I would like to play again.”
Players are united in wanting the chance to represent their homelands.
“The process we have right now is working and I think it’s great,” James said. “I love being part of the Olympics and representing my country.”
But 20 years after the Barcelona Olympic Dream Team of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson raised the global profile of the sport, most of the NBA’s goals have been achieved, especially with the influx of non-US players into the NBA.
“You see the results of that, putting basketball on the map around the world, the Dirk Nowitzkis and Pau Gasols,” Bryant said.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, whose team was led to an NBA title last year by German star Nowitzki, has blogged his dislike for the current system.
“My position on NBA players and the Olympics has not changed since I first wrote about it nearly eight years ago — it was stupid then and it has not gotten any smarter.”
But with Stern pushing for change, USA Basketball has had to listen.
“I sense there’s change in the air but when that takes place remains to be seen,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “We’ve had discussions. We’ll continue to have more. There’s a lot to be negotiated, a lot of parties to get to the table to agree and who knows how long that will take.”
Among US NBA players at London, only Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, James Harden and 2012 NBA Draft top pick Anthony Davis would be eligible if the age limit was 23.
“I’m concerned because I want to see all the young guys be part of this in the next Games,” Bryant said. “Players should be the ones to decide whether they want to take part of the Games or not.
“If the team is concerned about the player’s health, they should sit down and discuss it. Durant and the other guys are having a great time. They would all be in for sure.”
Bryant, who turns 34 next month, says he is done with the Olympics after London unless “they want to have a senior citizen on the team.”