Sunday, July 13, 2008
USA Basketball, I will fix you
United States Basketball has been an absolute joke and mockery since we last took home olympic gold in 2000. For us to EVER not win gold at the Olympics when we stack our team with 12 all-stars is actually an embarrassment. We should be BLOWING OUT the opposing country every single game, not even close. You have what, five? (Yao, Manu, Pau, Dirk, Nash), actual good players on international teams, and we still lose, and it is a joke. In the 2002 FIBA World Championship, I don't really know what it is but apparently teams play in it and things from around the world, we finished 6th (wtf sixth?! that..is...a..JOKE). We also managed to lose to Yugoslavia! (!!!, also a quick aside, I do not see any reason whatsoever for us to ever compete in international competitions which do not have to do with the Olympics) Fast forward to the 2004 Olympics and we place 3rd somehow. That team was poorly constructed, (much like our 2008 Olympic team, but I will not get into this now) but we still had Kobe, Iverson, Duncan, blabhalbh among the best players in the NBA. There is NO REASON WHY they should not be able to beat any international team led by one, maybe two, NBA players. I am actually embarrassed and ashamed that we don't win every single game every single time when our team is made up of 12 geniuses. Our guys have GOT to be embarrassed when a team ENTIRELY of white guys beats the supposed USA Basketball juggernaut. Olympics are soon, we should win, we have Lebby, CP3, Kobe, and all these other guys that Colangelo, er, Nike, decides should be on the team (you sneaked in, DHow, you and your silly Adidas!). *Also a very quick aside on our roster: 1 center on the team is a joke. KG not the starting power forward and not even ON the team is a joke. Anyone watching the 2004 games could tell we had less than no consistent outside shooting yet we add only Redd to address this deficiency is a joke. JKidd and Boozer on the team is a joke. I could go on and on.* But we still might not take home gold because the team is constructed poorly and most of the NBA players representing our country, deep down, don't really care. They care FAR more about winning an NBA title which makes perfect sense. They are not a team but a collection of players. They have but a few practices together right before the games, and it shows. Obviously, our team is unquestionably the most talented in comparison to other countries, and yet that is no longer becoming enough to dominate the international field. Interest in the Olympics and USA Basketball has in general been dead for some time now. Players have shown tremendous reluctance to represent their country and thusly slapping the collective basketball fans across the country in the face with their penises. Our Olympic team should be, firstly, an actual TEAM, and secondly, one that would revitalize interest in USA Basketball. I have a solution, and it is genius. Every fourth year, USA Basketball should be represented in the Olympics by whichever college team wins the tournament in March. I know you're intrigued, so let's get into it.
I love the idea of sending an actual TEAM to the Olympics to rep USA Basketball. I was thinking of maybe sending whichever NBA team won the title, and I do think this would be an improvement over the current system, but I think that sending an NCAA team would be far more interesting as their ability is much more on the level of the average international team than an NBA team. I have no doubt that the Celtics would own if they were to play in the Olympics, but U Kansas? That would be fun to watch.
The ambivalence and disinterest of NBA players, making millions of dollars a year, towards playing in the Olympics/for USA Basketball, is continuously glaring. By sending a collegiate team, we would be sending a group of kids to the Olympics where it would truly be the most exciting thing in their lives; they would kill - not take for granted - the opportunity to represent the US in the Olympics. There would be way more player incentive amongst college kids. This would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for the players on the team left standing at the end of the NCAA tournament.
The most obvious problem with this is how inviting the NCAA tournament is for upsets. The structure of it is exactly what makes it insanely exciting and amazing to watch. However, for every year of the Olympics, they can make the following change to the tournament. I would want the elite 8, final 4, and finals all to be best of 3 game series. This way it will give a little bit more assurance that one of the very best teams will win - providing they escape the one and done knockout rounds which precede the elite 8. I admit that a George Mason, Davidson or some cinderella team, if they won the tournament, would be a complete disaster. But the 1, 2, and 3 seeds in the tournament are consistently very good teams who would be more than capable to rep USA Basketball. By making the later stages of the tournament a best of 3 series, the likelihood of a bad team winning decreases markedly.
March Madness, already one of the most exciting and best sporting events in this country, would be even more intense (if that is possible) in Olympic years. When you look at a college roster of the top programs you see 1-3 players capable of playing in the NBA with another maybe 3-5 who will play overseas or something like this. I'd say about half of a given roster would not go on to play basketball professionally after college. The honor and desire to play in the Olympics would be burning for these kids, something which is unfortunately absent in the NBA players currently representing our country.
If the winner of the NCAA tournament was to go on to compete in the Olympics, it would give college basketball programs a very strong marketing tool. It would produce increased revenue for schools and increased interest in the season on these years. The student body of schools across the country would be going way more nuts about their college basketball teams on these years with the opportunity to see them play in the Olympics.
There would be a revitalized interest in USA Basketball if a college team were representing our country, I believe. It would be very easy to root for a college team playing for our country in the Olympics. It would put us more on par with the competition fielded by other countries and we would no longer be expected to dominate- something that is not very fun to root for or watch. It would level the playing field and make the games much more exciting.
This would also affect recruiting, I believe. As we are seeing now, top high school kids go to college for the mandatory year and then enter the draft. This will continue to happen, no doubt, regardless of the Olympic situation. But, on those years of the Olympics, it will undoubtedly affect where high school kids commit to in those years. Purely hypothetical, but if this system were in place, this past year it could be that Beasley, Mayo, Rose etc. commit to the same school in an effort to win the tournament and play in the Olympics. That would be AWESOME. It would look like a college all-star team sort of but it would ACTUALLY BE a team-which is hugely important. It seems unlikely that an OJ Mayo -or insert any top high school player here- would go to a crappy team like USC if he had the ability to go to a better program like a Duke, UNC, etc, with the ability to play in the Olympics if the team won the tournament that year.
Nobody really gets excited for the Olympics or USA Basketball anymore. The days of the Dream Team where the country was very excited about our Olympic basketball team are way in the past. It does not look like they will be resurfacing any time soon. It seems abundantly clear to me that they need to fix the system. The Olympics is a tremendously important event to countries across the world and it is too bad that USA Basketball has had such a falling from grace. The team (I hate calling it a team) that we are sending to the games this summer is, to me, very difficult to get excited about. We should destroy everyone and if we don't it will be a mockery and an embarrassment. These are the expectations set forth, and as such, it is tough to get into the Olympics. These are, briefly, reasons why I, and most basketball fans I would think, do not care about USA Basketball and the Olympics.
I believe that doing something this would be tremendous for USA Basketball. It would be interesting to see how it would work and what kind of -if any- backlash there would be from the NBA. I know this is *never* going to happen, but I really think it would revitalize USA Basketball and increase interest in the country. I WANT to get into Olympic basketball, I really do. However, I hate watching a collection of introverted, filthy rich, NBA stars who take for granted what should be regarded as a humbling privilege in representing our country. A college team representing the United States in the Olympics would be really cool.