More on USA Basketball

I did an interview with Mike Freeman of Sportsline that he posted today.

I’ve taken the liberty of repeating it here, and adding some additional thoughts below it. Thanks MIke.

Updated: Sep/04/2006 08:23 PM

Going international — and paying for it

You are about to read some of the smartest analysis from any NBA player, coach or official about why it seems the Americans, when it comes to international basketball play, couldn’t beat a foreign team composed of three French Poodles and two third-graders if their lives depended on it.

This is why we stink in international hoops, why we finish in third place despite having delicious NBA stars on the roster, or at least how Dallas owner Mark Cuban sees it. And he’s right. He’s so right that by the time you are done reading this you will be nodding your head in agreement.

“I can make it easy for you,” Cuban said when I asked him to give me 10 steps to make America’s international basketball experience more successful — and less like having a left testicle being hit with a ball peen hammer. “Either we change all levels of basketball in the USA to play by international rules, or we get them to play by U.S. basketball rules.

“I would be willing to bet that if you brought back all the same teams in the final eight and played under NBA rules,” Cuban said, “with an NBA ball on an NBA-sized court, we would torch them. The different rules require different skill sets. It’s that simple.

“If one set of rules isn’t natural to you, you will struggle to adapt,” Cuban continued in his e-mail. “We hear it all the time about international players having to adapt to the NBA game. Here the rules are geared towards entertainment, which is a good thing. But if we changed to international rules, we would have a completely different set of stars and teams would be constructed and coached completely differently.”

The international teams put more emphasis on pure shooting, for example. They don’t care as much about slam dunks. They want to make outside shots, not highlight shows.

Don’t stop reading. Cuban is just getting warmed up.

“And as far as wondering why the USA can’t dominate the Olympics like the original Dream Teams, there is an easy answer,” he said. “We plugged in our NBA stars to play against international teams that had been comprised of non-professionals forever. While at the same time the Soviet Union imploded, so the one team that also was filled with professionals didn’t exist any longer.”

“Of course the U.S. teams were going to kill any and every team,” Cuban continued. “It was our stars against their amateurs. Well, 15 years later, they have had plenty of time to integrate their professionals into their teams. Their national teams not only start playing together much younger, they play together every summer and their players go pro younger. So they have professional players who are now playing together every summer, year after year, for well-funded national teams. On top of that, the top Euro (teams) play against each other. They get friendlies that are competitive. The U.S. team played against creampuffs a couple times before the tournament.”

That makes so much sense my head hurts.

Cuban is not trying to diss the Dream Team, but what he says is true. That team did not play a series of pro teams. They played scrubs. It was like the Dallas Cowboys taking on a state college.

Then Cuban says something that at first I don’t agree with, but then, after reading what he says, his argument sways me.

“All that said, I personally think that the NBA, from a business perspective, is stupid for letting our players play at all,” Cuban explains. “We absorb all the risk and we have gained little if anything from it. Well, that’s not completely true. (The) last six to 10 years of international competition have led media to call our players selfish, without basic basketball skills, ugly Americans and worse. This year’s team was far better behaved and that’s great. But we put ourselves in a no-win, everything-to-lose situation (just ask Memphis). That’s not good business. Ever.”

When I tell Cuban that — to borrow a lame phrase being used about another topic altogether — refusing to play, instead of fixing the problems, would be cutting and running, he responds: “It’s just a financial decision. The Olympics is nothing but a big business. It’s not a platform for national pride. They are a competitor for advertising and TV dollars. Lending them our best players is a dumb business decision. It has nothing to do with winning or losing.”

The Americans have everything to lose while international clubs have everything to gain. Keeping our NBA players out of it and reengineering the international team to play a more international style might be the best thing to do.

As usual, Cuban makes too much sense.

I also wanted to add a quick thought that is in response to some of the comments.

The ultimate test, whether of American or foriegn players of their committment to playing for their national teams is whether they would waive their guarantees for any injuries suffered during international competitions. If its country before money. Great. Go for it.

The next point is that if we want NBA players to be better international as well as NBA players, then why do we restrict our ability to work with them over the summer ? Even if a player wants to come to Dallas and train and work with our coaches, we arent allowed to make it happen. Commissioner Stern said it best (although im paraphrasing, i couldnt find a directlink) when he said that it didnt make sense that student athletes had more access to shoe companies than their coachs. Well the same thing applies to NBA players. Our players can play in Pro Am Leagues. THey can do whatever they want with their shoe company and the promotions and games they put together, but we cant work with them on their skillsets. Skills that would improve our ability to compete internationally, and would make the NBA better. Hopefully the commish can work with the NBA Players union, or better yet, the Players Union will encourage their membership to allow skills based training over the summer.

And finally, let me go back to the business side of the equation. I personally dont think the NBA gains returns equal to a money market fund from the money we spend internationally.

Do we sell product. Absolutely. Do we sell TV rights. Absolutely. Do we gain an international profile ? Absolutely. That said, my business bias is to win the battles we are in first, then take on new battles.
HOw about we focus on doing a better job in the battle for eyeballs in the US first ? How about we create so much demand fo
r our game that over the air TV perceives it as a must have TIVO buster product like the NFL ? Or Iceskating in the Olympics ?

All that money we spend to promote ourselves internationally can be far better spent to promote our game domestically. Lets make the NBA a close, not distant second to the NFL. The USA is the most prolific TV market in the world. Increasing our ratings and attendance here from better marketing will pay us far , far more returns than anything we could ever possibly do internationally.

69 thoughts on “More on USA Basketball

  1. it always amazes me that some college players sign with foreign teams instead of playing here. they seem to be only influenced by money and fail to realize that they have a greater potential if they stay here and play.

    Comment by sportzbuzz -

  2. Mark Cuban focuses most of his propositions at the NBA — which isn\’t surprising since he owns an NBA franchise. However, \”If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail,\” (Abraham Maslow).

    Mr. Cuban is right, though, in that international players do struggle to adapt to the NBA when they get there. But then again, so do college students. The difference is, at some point, the NBA\’s international players will get to reuse their former game skills as they represent their countries during the summer in international competitions, whereas former collegiate players will NEVER be called upon to revert to their former NCAA game skills to represent their former schools.

    Which begs the question: what on earth is the NCAA doing?

    The NBA obviously sees the NCAA its primary labor pool, and judging by the way the NCAA has become a strange brew of high school and NBA basketball, it appears the NCAA regards itself as the NBA farm league as well. For example, the NCAA\’s three point line is the same as the high school line, and its court size is the same as the NBA\’s. But why? Why does the NCAA have its own variation of the game of basketball?

    The NCAA\’s perplexing perspective of its role in basketball has caused it to create a world unto itself, a world that insists on being oblivious to how basketball is played the world over, and is doing no one any favors — particularly USA basketball.

    The vast majority of college basketball players will never play in the NBA, therefore the NCAA needs to shift its focus away from being the transition between high school and the NBA, and instead educate college athletes on how the game is played around the world.

    Again, the NCAA is doing basketball no favors by insisting on its own private adaptation of the game, and needs to commit to conforming more closely to international rules.

    Once accustomed to a system, returning to it isn\’t that difficult. Yao Ming, Leandro Barbosa, Manu Ginobli, Dirk Nowitsky, etc. seem to have no problems moving between both the NBA and International basketball. In fact, they all speak both dialects fluently and are the basketball equivalent of being bilingual.

    With 1 to 5 years of international basketball experience in college, Team USA would likewise learn to be basketball bilingual.

    Which reminds me of an old joke. What do you call someone who speaks 3 languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks 2 languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks just 1 language? American. Unfortunately, the same is true of USA basketball.

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    Comment by Meczi -

  5. I thuroughly believe the NBA would be better served with you, Mark, at the comissioner’s helm. Obviously from a business point of view, i believe your style fits the NBA much better than the Overlord’s (stern) does.

    On a more related note: i enjoy watching Olympic basketball very much, but it certainly makes no sense to have our guys over there playing their kind of ball. Why let our product be open to damage (injuries, loss of face due to not winning gold) in a tournament that is completely stacked against us?

    Comment by The General -

  6. you guys seem to be missing the importance of dominating international basketball competitions…this is OUR sport..we invented it…other countries dont take it serious at all but they come out every 2 years and beat us at our own game..we have to stop this…and about the mavs going against the world in the olympics or wbc’s..that couldnt happen beacuse a few of their players are foreign players and they would be at a disadvantage for the next season of nba basketball because of fatigue

    Comment by G-Harpe -

  7. hey mark this is totally unrelated and off subject but what is your favorite song?

    Comment by G-Harpe -

  8. USA basketball will be better for there passion

    Comment by kala -

  9. One thing to remember is that most people in the US don’t care all that much about whether or not we win in international competition. It means a lot more to people overseas to win, that it does to people in the US even if we lose.

    Comment by girls basketball -

  10. Great article. I told a friend the other day that there is really nothing for us to gain by sending oru NBA players to play in internationsl competition. I don’t really like the idea, but I said we should just send over our college guys. Not sure that’s the right answer, but I don’t know if there is a right answer. I’ve got some other thoughts on the game at my site:

    Comment by Pat -

  11. Mr. Cuban,
    I feel the international communities sentiment towards American values, and the American way of doing things would prohibit them from transitioning their basketball rules to more closely mirror our own. To reverse this, I feel strongly that I would not be nearly as interested in watching D-Wade, Lebron, and Co. shoot open mid-range jumpers after crisp ball movement and effective motion offense. Yes, this dish is nicely served as a “change of pace” type posession in the middle of a game, and reminds us all of the inherent beauty in teamwork…but lets be honest here. I want to see RJ or Lebron jump out of the gym, catch a no-look ally-oop, and finish strong. We (Americans) all want that. And that doesn’t exist in the environment of the international game. That type of ball movement and motion would lead to more effective options offensively which don’t require as many high-risk FG attempts.
    Since there is barely more than a slight correlation between the two games, I find it difficult to see how we will be able to once again be at the forefront of the international basketball world.
    Regarding your ideas about fully capturing the US market before focusing on international exposure, please recall that it is significantly more effective to measure the value of an enterprise on the Free Cash it is generating, as opposed to its ROI. You seem to hint at the bang-for-the buck type analysis when discussing the power of the US television market. Please consider the additional revenue streams, and free cash beyond expenses generated from such a larger market. Even if its not as economically powerful as the domestic market. There are times to think small. This is not one of them.

    Comment by Ben Jaedecke -

  12. There are dozens of theories on why the US “struggles” internationally. They range from explanations that make sense (e.g. different rules, less cohesive units) to ones that reek of ignorances (e.g. US players don’t care or don’t have heart).

    Perhaps the best explanation, however, is simple statistics.

    Specifically, in single elimination tournaments, you should often bet on the field over one team. The NCAA tourney shows us this every year — how often does the pre-tourney #1 team actually win.

    In international play, the concept is the say. For arguments sake, in the medal round, say the US squad has a 95% chance of winning its 1st round game, 85% chance of winning the quarterfinal game, 75% chance of winning the semifinal game, and 65% chance of winning the title game. Despite this “favorite” status, the pre-tourney chances of the US hoisting gold are only 40%.

    So while commentators will continue to throw out new ideas that will give the US a competitive edge, and NBA-haters will continue to serve up weak questions of ability and desire, the reality actually is world teams have become good enough to make it a credible single elimination tourney where it will always pay to bet on the field instead of the US.

    Comment by JJ -

  13. let’s win in the us market, we will make far more than any gains internationally–you lost me there.

    the us market is becoming more and more mature, while the developing world is exactly that…developing. how much more market share do we stand to really gain in the US, how many people are confused as to what basketball is.

    India and China have only begun to scratch the surface of their populace, so we can develop more and more there.

    Coca-Cola makes more than 2/3rds of its sales overseas–isn’t that a more realistic model to follow, than just trying to cultivate more and more in the US?

    Sometimes you’re right on the money, sometimes you’re no better than Tony the DQ Manager

    Comment by mark -

  14. I agree that international rules are definitely one of the problems plaguing Team USA. The American team is just not able to adapt quickly enough to the different rules. The two most problematic differences seem to be that the three-point line is closer to the basket and that the players cannot get the foul calls that they expect from NBA officials. The unfamiliarity with the rules cause the all-stars to quickly become drawn into the same playing style as many of these international teams who have played together for years. International basketball rewards quick shooting and light defense, both of which NBA teams typically try to avoid.

    The Americans play as the group of individuals that they are, rather than play team defense. When they get behind in a game, they try to rely on outside shooting which can cause them to get behind even more when those shots do not fall. Further, the ball does not get moved around enough because every all-star believes they can hit the open shot. Attitude can also play a part, with the Americans believing that they can beat anyone while other countries are more motivated to try to beat them for this very reason. Team USA played warm-up games against weak teams like China who were in no way going to compare to playing more competitive teams such as Argentina or Greece. Either more time will have to be devoted to Team USA playing together, or the rules will have to be changed to a more universal medium.

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  16. It drives me nuts seeing some of the bonehead decisions that (any) businesses make, when there are so many other, better, solutions out there. There don’t seem to be enough smart people to go around.

    Comment by 11nong -

  17. Wow Mark….that made TOO much sense!!
    We have a saying here in the military: “If it makes sense, it’s against policy”! LOL

    Comment by Kevin -

  18. Mark Cuban Is like a God on Earth. He is what the American Dream is all about. If America had a spirit’ It should be his. If I had 1% of what he has? I would be unstopable. To shake his hand would be a dream. Thank you Mark Cuban for letting us in your world!

    Comment by Daniel Rivera -

  19. Jeez Mark did it take you long to tug that guy out of your ass? He must have crawled pretty far in by the end. Great points in your argument somewhat breathlessly related…

    Comment by Stuart -

  20. Most people don’t analyze it the way you do. And I agree, it is a terrible business decision; it hurts the reputation of some of the NBA’s best players.

    Comment by Roxana -

  21. That might be many legitimate theories on why USA yet again fall short. And there might be many deep rooted problems.

    But the very fist question we should ask ourselves is whether USA has really put together the best team for the World Championship?

    No doubt Lebron, Wade and Anthony are going to be the cornerstone the league for years to come. And personally, I love all three of them as players.

    But if you ask any general manager in the NBA to pick any 5 American born players to form his starting 5, I don’t think anyone would pick all three of them. (Of course, except for Isaiah Thomas, who would pick all three then add Marbury and Steve Francis).

    A Fantasy team maybe, but not a real cohesive team.

    Add to that the need for pure shooters to play the international game, and you really have a flawed team.

    Now we are even thinking about adding Kobe to this team for the Olympics. Talk about a receipe for disaster. However hard they try, and however committed to the cause, there just ain’t enough balls to go around them all.

    Build a team with complementary skills, America. Not an all star team.

    Comment by Victor -

  22. “All that said, I personally think that the NBA, from a business perspective, is stupid for letting our players play at all… We absorb all the risk and we have gained little if anything from it.”

    While this is somewhat true for your star players like Pau Gasol, I feel these international competitions are a great for the younger international players on a team. The competition in these leagues is FAR better than the NBDL or the Vegas Summer leagues. It would be very beneficial to let your younger international players play in the during the summers for practice, especially after they have played in the NBA.

    For example, Leandro Barbosa is a extremely good talent but he has a lot to learn. What would be better for him to learn about the game than playing against Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili and the other stars of the league?

    While it is a bad risk for those max-contract caliber players but it is a very useful training league for your younger players. Too bad young American players don’t get that luxury.

    Comment by Lucas -

  23. Personally, I liked the FIBA games better than most NBA games I watch (yes, I was getting up for those 6:30am games). The emphasis on pure shooting puts a premium on ball movement with passing to set up an open shooter, instead of ball handling to break down a defender. The games were over in a reasonable amount of time and not cluttered with constant timeouts. I don’t really know what particular little differences are in the rules but I’d take a movement towards whatever these rules are any day of the week.

    Comment by Adam -

  24. I agree that I wouldnt let my multi-million dollar investments play. You saw what happened to Tony Paker and Pau Gasol.

    Comment by Sports Directory -

  25. Good column. You also might enjoy reading Dave Krieger’s column in the Rocky Mountain News (Denver) from Saturday. Here is the link:,1299,DRMN_83_4964116,00.html
    It is very similar to a column from that you referred to during the NBA Finals in which the author was rooting for your Mavs becasue they played team ball instead of Miami which was a 1-man show.

    Comment by Judah -

  26. This is another myth always floats around when the US loses:

    “USA would have won if we had Kobe, Shaq, Duncan, TD, Garnett, had played.”

    -A big part of Team USA’s problem is EGO! Do you know the above players as spectacular altruists who defer to teammates at the slightest provocation? With the exception of Duncan (a whiner of note who quit FIBA ball because he wasnt getting his superstar calls), all those players need tons of the ball to be effective. Can you imagine the ball (non)movement with those players!? And as we should all know by now, ball movement is what USA needs more of.

    – Shaq would foul out in his first 10 minutes: international refs would rightly call him for offensive fouls when he does his habitual elbowing of the defender’s face when he’s posted up with the ball and turns to face the basket. And when he barges over a defender who’s feet are set. The NBA has always him get away with these. Also he’d turnover the ball like crazy: 3 second violations, freethrow lane violations and travels. And no defensive 3 seconds rule to bail him out of double teams

    – If star power always wins out, why did the Pistons cream your beloved Kobe, Shaq, Malone and GP a couple years back? On an individual accolades matchup, Detroit didnt stand a chance. But of course *teams* get to play against each other; there isn’t a 1-on-1 tag team setup (maybe Cuban should look into that as a marketing idea – and leave proper basketball alone). Teamwork works in the NBA too, not just in international ball. So you can load up Tean USA with as many big names as you like, it wont really make a difference. Synergy always wins out.

    Comment by sarcosuchus -

  27. Football is not in any way a TiVo buster. I give all games at least a 30 minute buffer before I start watching. There is so much dead time in a football game. TiVo is the only way to watch.

    Comment by Eric -

  28. More on USA Basketball,

    Hi Mark,

    Great comments on USA Basketball and nice to see that there’s a dose of realism around, but I can see both sides to the argument.

    I’m English and like most English we expect to win the world cup and European football (Soccer) tournaments whenever they roll around. Our attitude is one of ‘we invented the game so it’s our god given right to win everything’ and the media hypes this so far out of sight, that any dose of realism is quickly lost in the hyperbole and expectation of England winning the next tournament. Last major tournament we won was in 1966, for crying out loud!!
    Invariably we lose (usually on penalties to lesser teams as the chances of us winning one of those shootouts are rare as rocking horse shizzle!!!) and then the press goes on about how they never really expected England to win the cup.
    The key problem like USA basketball is that we don’t give credit for the world catching up! We just don’t do it! We don’t understand that other countries play a far different, effective styles of football that can pick our team apart. We are loath to give any credit to other teams who beat us and it’s wrong. Like the NBA, the English Premiership has an ever growing quota of international talent who bring disciplined training habits, more inventive play and better skill levels, as well as better class of person at a vastly reduced sum (ignoring Zidane and Schevchenko – money well spent). English players remain in part over priced and lazy. Our league is a better place for the international talent, and young players are getting it. We have a better grasp of the international game going forward, but we can’t sell tickets on losing and development so we continue to pick teams based on popularity and not functionality. For years people have watched English Football/Soccer, and the Premiership is considered the best soccer league in the world, but we have to repay that attention and respect to other leagues in the world or we’ll continue to have our arses handed to us in big tournaments. The NBA is the same!



    Comment by Paul Sanders -

  29. Being a hugh basketball fan, this was a really interesting article. Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

    Digital Life

    Comment by Matt -

  30. Some reactions to your article

    Comment by Romain -

  31. i meant major league soccer

    Comment by paul ipe -

  32. I don’t have time to write out a well thought out reply but i’d like to thank the following:

    tony Carson

    for trashing cuban’s comments. I like cuban, i like him a lot, but not this particular view of his. Why were the americans distraught at the fifa world cup when they lost? shouldn’t you just call the mlb winners the world champions and then not take part for the fifa wc? Ok you are better at basketball obviously but at the same time i will never understand why every other country has players who take pride in representing their country but your players do not? As an owner I could understand that you are apprehensive about spending millions and millions of dollars and so you want to dictate someone’s life…and make sure he does not get injured in international play…i would be pissed if someone took 40 million from me and then slipped in the bathroom and was out of action for 5 months…let alone play basketball somewhere where i didnt want him to…but i guess these clauses are there in the players contracts.
    You guys need to get your act together with regard to getting the best team you can produce. But in the mean time, trying to point out a financial angle to the thing is making you more greedy than the olympic committee…atleast in the fifa wc they started spreading a ‘no racism’ message…to quite a large television audience…what about you guys? any messages before tip off? The financial angle is bogus cuban and you ought to realise where people on other shores come from…why do people have pride in playing for their country and how come you don’t? or do you only have pride when you win? if you can callously make fun of europeans who can’t adapt in the nba, i think they have every right to make fun of americans who can’t play a 40 minute bball game

    Comment by paul ipe -

  33. Mark, I’m sorry but I still have to challenge your basic assumpions. You can’t dismiss all other country’s basketball programs as “non-professional” until Jordan, Bird and Magic showed up to play in their backyard. That is just ignoring history and is completely ignorant to the thousands of basketball fans in other countries. Yes, they won. One Olympics does not an American tradition make. I think you are o’ding on the financial angle and ignoring a lot of history.

    Comment by Michelle Tackabery -

  34. Kobe said if he, lebron, t-mac played soccer and were in the world cup, the US would win..maybe if he played, the US would have won..?

    Comment by Mourning Glory -

  35. for US (NBA stars) to win, there’s only one thing to do..put nba refs to officiate..then every possession of d-wade will result to a foul and free throws, he’ll score 40+ and be the MVP, just like in the finals..face it, these aren’t real stars (except for Lebron)like the 92 dream team, these are simply stern/nba-built up stars. The ’92 dream team killed each other in the NBA, this team is composed of, at most, 1st rounders..oh yeah, d-wade is a champion and finals mvp? yeah right.. this team USA version is really not that good, individually or collectively, period.. a bronze is already an over-achievement..

    Comment by Ted Zimmer -

  36. I agree. How can a team that has played together for a few weeks play against a team that has played together since before birth. The international teams have everything to gain. They don’t care about individual stats because a win over USA is much bigger. Its like our hockey team in 1980 playing the Soviet Union.

    Comment by Chris Dowell -

  37. Man, Cuban you are so right on. To add on, I always wondered why the international game is so much different from the NBA. It’s even quite a bit different from the college game. Why is this if the game was invented in America; its not like we change the rules of European football over here and make the owners of the game play by our rules. Thats wrong and it gives us an obvious advantage. I also agree on not encouraging NBA players play in the international game. What do we have to gain? Having the obvious powerhouse win the gold? How much better will that make us feel? Do many Americans even care? Again, I think it would be in our best interest to use the international game as a D-League and have the best players who are technically in the NBA but don’t play (and college players) have their own team throughout the season. That way they can increase their game while also giving them about a year to prepare so that we can compete. Another great post Mr. Cuban.

    Comment by Collin -

  38. I am the first to say that I do not like Mr. Cuban. After reading this article I see that he is a very smart business man. He made some valid and interesting points concerning the US teams. I agree with him 100%.

    Comment by Dee -

  39. I agree totally with your view on the WC. What I’m not sure I understand is comment #13’s point equating the WC to the break the NHL takes for the olympics. The NHL takes this same break every 4 years~~this year was nothing new.

    If the comment is directed towards the rules change that NHL players have to adjust to when playing in the Olympics, then I see the vague connection. However, I rather like the olympic rules for hockey, the games were some of the most exciting that I had ever seen.

    I feel that anyone who wishes to represent his/her country in international competition should be allowed to do so. At this point, the only sport (with an international competition) that doesn’t is MLB, unless you count that worthless attempt at a world championship they tried this past spring.

    Kudos to those players who represented the US, thanks for representing us with class!

    Comment by Kristin -

  40. Bill Simmons (Mr. Cuban’s “hero” – earlier post) ALWAYS oultines what the US team should look like to succeed under international rules (poitn gurads who spread the ball, guys who are good at team defense and drive-and-kick, plus some ‘hi energy’ guys off the bench and he even suggests PLAYERS. Read his columns when the WC’s or the Olympics come around.

    In terms of growing the NBA domestically, what about international growth? the NBA brand is powerful…you could have teams in Europe playing NBA-ball under an NBA banner. Worldwide exposure and expansion, not just expansion to Pierre North Dakota or where ever. yes? no?

    Comment by Justin Calcagni -

  41. It’s hard to win when you don’t send your best players. Where were Iverson, Marbury, Kobe, and Shaq?

    Comment by Nick -

  42. Who has the cheese for these whiners?

    These are not athletes of old. These are not the kids and parents putting in hours and hours and more hours of training just for the hope of making the olympic team. (Lets not bring in the freaky parenting thing right now.) To represent their country and themselves in the Olympics is not the pinnacle of their sport. To star in the NBA is.

    What are the numbers of college players who can’t make the NBA but can make the Euro league? Why not put these guys on a National team

    Comment by PSC -

  43. its not up to FIBA to help the US adjust to the international rules. What makes the european/international basketball games harder for the US to play is simple….NO INDIVIDUALS. For example, Germany. Yes, they have Dirk. But they didn’t get to where they are because of just him. Look at Greece. No NBA players. It was a complete team effort. US basketball is, and always will be, about EGO. Want to win in Europe? Send the Duke team. UNC. Just about any NCAA team. Why? No individual egos to get in the way of the ultimate goal. They had it right with Coach K. But they missed when selecting the team. And I am not a Duke fan. But putting Anthony, James, and all those other guys on the team was a mistake. Each wanted their own highlights. Go back to sending college guys or this outcome will be repeated every time.

    Comment by John -

  44. Canadian professional hockey players got thrashed time and time again by international weaklings and to justify the drubbing our hockey pundits made more or less the same arguments Cuban is making. It’s rubbish, of course. Basketball like hockey has become an international sport played by very good and dedicated athletes hungry to beat the big guy.

    It’ll probably take the US as long as it took Canada to get over its arrogance and hubris and start designing teams that can compete effectively against quality competition took Canada maybe 20 years. Now we enter tournaments with a resolution to win, not an expectation. Just some friendly advice.

    Comment by tony Carson -

  45. Post 10 had it right. You will be an amazing commish one day. Please just remember when you get there that there are other teams than the one in New York.

    Comment by Jimbo -

  46. “The USA is the most prolific TV market in the world.” — Yeah, because everyone is so fat and doesn’t ever get off their couch!

    Comment by Andy -

  47. Mark you’re right on so many levels. I’ve been SCREAMING this to anyone that will listen, as well as at the TV since the Olympics. But I do wonder why I never hear this mentioned by the ‘experts’ at espn etc. Do they just not want Team USA to work and would rather have a ‘Titanic’ to write about instead of smooth sailing?

    Also, I think you are just a tiny bit off. The rules of American ball are made to facilitate high-end individual talent that has to come together to win a chip, but can compete as is. Euro ball is made so that you can be competitive without much individual talent so long as you fit a certain team structure.

    One more thing: I think comment 6 is on the right track. Thanks!

    Comment by jd -

  48. Mr.Cuban,I`m a Chinese girl.And I agree with you completly.
    My favourite NBA player is KOBE.
    But I like you too .

    Comment by ZeroIcy -

  49. Lets all step back and ignore for a second the financial implications to the team owners.

    Isn’t the ultimate dream of most kids growing up to one day represent their country? Would it be so wrong to let these kids watch their sporting idols/heroes play for national pride?

    Or is everthing about signing bonuses, gauranteed contracts and shoe endorsements?

    In nearly all countries around the world, the ultimate for any athlete is to play for your country.

    From memory, isn’t the international Ice Hockey rules different to that of the NHL Rules. Isn’t it one of the dreams of most Canadian kids to play for Team Canada. Don’t the Euro’s do really well compared to the US and Canadian teams in that as well?

    Lets use rugby as another example. Have you seen how the New Zealenders idolise the All Blacks Rugby Team (their national team). The ultimate for any Kiwi kid is to one day be an All Black. Yes, their sport is also professional and the star players get pretty good salaries (though no where near that of the NBA players). But the ultimate is to be an All Black. Somethings are more important and give you more satisfaction than money.

    I understand Marks view. He is looking at it from a purely business stand point as to what is in the interest of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban and the NBA (which is owned by the Franchises). In his view, and that of the the other Franchise owners, the ultimate for any kid growing up should be to be a Maverick or a Laker or Knick etc, not a US Team member. They own the Mavericks, Lakers and Knicks – they don’t own the US Basketball Federation.

    The reason he is raising/reigniting this debate is not from a sporting perspective. He is trying to capatalise on the nations dissapointment in their teams recent results so that hopefully he can guide the discussions, sometimes subtely – sometimes not, away from why the US Team loses to why should pro players play at international basketball championships.

    He is hoping that because the average American automatically assumes that the US has the best ‘ballers in the world, they would hopefully think that its not worth sending them over to some foreign country to play a bunch of foreigners in a
    form of basketball. The real game is played here anyway and the real world champions are the Miami Heat. In a sense, he is arguing that this is not really the basketball that we know, but rather a foreign form of which is not relevant to us.

    In my mind that is a very narrow minded and selfish viewpoint coming from a person who is not narrow minded in most things and embraces, and has succeeded, because of international players in his team.

    Comment by Ash -

  50. As long as the players the USA sends to represent our country in basketball are having fun it really doesn’t matter whether they finish number one or not. They are all winners.

    Comment by Nick -

  51. Nice post Mr. Cuban. I agree with you completely.

    Comment by totoro -

  52. NBA must decide either the Olympics or the FIBA WC as the feature international tournament. For NBA players to participate both events would be too many games (an NBA player could play as much as 110 games in one season including the pre-season and the playoffs in NBA) and too much risk for Mark and other owners. Soccer uses their world cup as the featured event and Olympic is somewhat of an after that.

    Comment by SY -

  53. How to construct our national team, 2 words:

    Harlem Globetrotters

    Comment by H10 -

  54. I completely agree. Let’s get it done at home first.

    Comment by Sports Bettor -

  55. I nearly puked a few years ago when Mitt Romney claimed he went to Utah to work for the Olympics as some sort of national service – like he was in the National Guard or something. he was merely trying to save face for a billion dollar private sporting event. There’s nothing that great about the Olympics anymore. It’s just another stop on the pro tour for nearly all of the events. Does anyone really care who wins the gold in tennis? It’s just the cheapest stop on the tour? The Olympics is no longer merely some sort of noble event which unites the world. It’s a money making machine that seems to make a lot of cash for everybody but the athletes. It’s time the Olympics puts up money instead of a bunch of lame donut shaped medals. They don’t give away that network feed for free.

    Comment by Joe Corey -

  56. The fact we are falling behind on the world stage in sports specifically basketball IS because of the MONEY these guys make. Whats the incentive? Let me get my bling FIRST and maybe I will think of my country. JFK’s speeches need to be replayed here. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what YOU can do for your country.”
    EVERY pro player for any sport makes obscene amounts of money. Good for them. But to even think you should be paid for the Olympics reeks of off the chart greed.
    Don’t want to play then don’t. Thats the beauty of volunteering. Its called SACRIFICE. Im sure these players have great insurance and disability coverage. If you don’t then either fire your agent or get your head out of your arse. Cuban..I love ya like family but you are off base on this one.
    As for the games themselves. Its time to re look at the middle school and high school structure. Even AAU is killing the game. You have too many slack coaches who just want to roll the ball out onto the court and just play. Very little teaching for these kids. might play just one year of college and off to the run and gun,iso,back in down low in the paint NBA and you get a Bronze medal. The dunks get first highlights and the 3 gets the treatment of equestrian riders.
    Fundamentals have to be taught early and often and reinforced over and over again. THATS why we are losing. We lack the ABC’s of the game and the overall hunger to win for the USA.
    If you ever want to debate on National TV Im your huckleberry. Im not rich by any means but Im passionate and I always bring the fastball.

    Comment by Stall -

  57. There is nothing about this I can disagree with. The only better example is to look at the past season of the NHL having to take a two week vaction to accomodate the Winter Olympics, and how horribly that turned out. To bad it is not in the best interest of the NBA to change to international play rules, or vice versa.

    Comment by JC -

  58. “Where else can you get to use another company’s products for free?” Soccer comes to mind, and not only is that a much bigger global business than basketball, they need more players to fill a national team. Mark’s complaints sound exactly like those of coaches and management of European club teams whose players are selected for national teams – hello Alex Ferguson – which is not to say they are not legit.

    But the cat’s out of the bag – look what winning the Olympics did for the global branding of each of the individual Dream Teamers and the follow-up team four years later. The same happens for soccer players in the World Cup every fourth year. If the NBA were to go isolationist – ie not let players play in international competitions – the great international players would be far less likely to come here to play and the NBA as whole would eventually give up it’s position as the premier basketball league in the world.

    “Here the rules are geared towards entertainment.” Let’s not kid ourselves. Two steps to the basket, Iverson style carrying of the ball, and isolation plays where four offensive players get out of the the fifth’s way are not THAT entertaing. Dunks are great for Sportscenter’s ratings, but an entire game’s worth of them usually means an overmatch or neither team is playing defense.

    1 – Get together with FIBA and try to figure out some compromises on rules. There’s no reason that our college and HS basketball leagues cannot use the international three point line, for example.

    2 – Put a division in Europe. Yes, travel will be a bear and expenses will go up. The upside is that you’ll get even more quality euro players to join and the NBA’s leverage with FIBA will skyrocket. Is the NBA’s brand of basketball more entertaining? We’ll find out, but be sure to put teams in countries that don’t have strong leagues – England and France for starters.

    3 – The NCAA is the elephant in the room. There’s a drastic difference between going to college to play basketball and joining the NBA out of HS. Given the farce of an education that many (but not all) division I colleges offer there basketball players, there should be some kind of system where the best high school graduates have a middle choice to hone their skills. Why can’t they go off to the Olympic Training Center year round like talented teen gymnasts, speed skaters, and other Olympic athletes? Limit yourself to the best of the best and teach them the team game. Otherwise, they each go to a dozen different colleges and learn how to be stars, not well-rounded players. Of course the NCAA would never allow the Olympic Center to poach the cream of the litter each year, would they?

    Comment by JJG -

  59. I think the real issue is that we as a superpower expect our athletes to be the best in everything. “Made in America” is synonymous with the best in the world. But……..

    If we call our champions “world champions” then we should be able to compete in the international arena and win. Right?

    Imagine an All-Star NFL team going somewhere (anywhere) and getting their butts handed back to them on a platter. Unthinkable!

    If we exalt our champions as being the best athletes in the world (and we do) then we should be able to prove it or stop calling teams “WORLD CHAMPIONS. I am just saying……


    On another subject, I really do not think NBA basketball can equal the NFL in popularity. To begin, look at the size of each squad, probability says, you are more likely to find someone to like if the squad is say 50 to 100 players and coaches(as it is in the NFL) than 10 to 20(the NBA).

    Secondly, the NFL provides a showcase for a number of physical talents: Kicking, throwing, speed, strength, and players of different socio-economical, racial, and physical attributes (tall, skinny, short and yes fat). Therefore, you just have more chances to find someone or something to identify with and love, even if you are watching the game for the first time.

    The NBA skills set are limited to speed and jumping ability, (I know I am simplifying here- but you get my point). And, as we change the rules more and more to emphasize the one-on-one match-ups and dunks, and de-emphasize defensive play the results is the same type of player skills being valued at the expense of other types.

    If you are not black, 6’4″ and can jump out of your gym shorts, (the generalization is just to make a point) then there is less for one to identify with as a fan in the NBA.

    Back in the hay-day of the 80’s the Celtics and the Lakers provided a very different style of playing and players and caused the NBA TV ratings to shoot through the roof.

    Today the style, the racial and physical attributes of the NBA players is less diverse.

    As a result, the potential fan based and TV audience is smaller for the NBA than NFL football.

    So, unless something changes, then for all the above reasons the NFL is and will always be king.

    (Just for the record, I am a NBA fan and I love basketball.)

    Comment by Antonio Howell -

  60. Mark-you will make an excellent commish someday.

    It drives me nuts seeing some of the bonehead decisions that (any) businesses make, when there are so many other, better, solutions out there. There don’t seem to be enough smart people to go around.

    Comment by James Reinhardt -

  61. This journalist is brown-nosing Cuban so hard, he’ll have to have his nostrils surgically separated from Mark’s posterior.

    Firstly, dont standardise on Basketball rules! Its what makes it interesting. You dont hear anyone asking for Formula 1 and Indycar racing to be standardised, do you!? A true master of his craft – which is what each Team USA player should be consider themselves to be – will RELISH the added challenge of adapting to different rules. They do it all the time in the NBA! One day you play the run-n-gun Suns, the next day you play the plodding Grizzlies. 2 different games requiring different things from you. No one complains when they get beat by the Suns that the rules should be changed to force everyone to play slowly! Senna and Schumacher are greats because you could stick them in NASCAR and they would still kill everyone.

    USA wouldnt necessarily torch anybody if playing by NBA rules – how did the foreigner-loaded spurs with their 2 last championships?

    From the first time they put NBA players against Euroteams in the MacDonald open, the NBA wasnt necessarily streets ahead. It took an overtime for the Knicks to beat a Kukoc-led team. The ‘scares’ have always been there.

    Nothing stops USA from playing in Under 17, U19 and U21 tournament so that their players also get international experience. Nothing stops the US from organizing their own tough ‘friendlies’ – execept for greedy owners who want the players all to themselves. Nothing stops the US from having their own well-funded teams.

    American players start young too! Just coz they’re not in a national team doesnt make their playing experience invalid.

    If you really want to understand what playing for their country means to international players, consider Pau Gasol who at the olympics was dunking and facializing Amare, duncan and Odom. Note that he doesnt oten do that in the NBA. What made the difference? A red jersey with ‘Espana’ written on it. If money was a stronger motivator, wouldnt it drive him to do that night in night out in the NBA, so YOU could trade for him??

    Quit giving excuses and MAN UP! As Barkley once said “Take your ass whooping like a man!” Bet he never thought it’d apply to his country’s team.

    Comment by sarcosuchus -

  62. Mark deals with reality.

    The art Vs business argument will always be. Americans will always defend the romantic argument because they want to believe in the beauty of freedom and competition without corruption or advertisement influence. People are simply choosing to be naive. That’s why the business minded always conquer in the long run.

    Heck, just look at the state of the music or moive buisness today. Ever heard of weekend box office results? Read the book, “Desperate Networks”!

    Comment by Joe -

  63. brilliant as always

    Comment by Ryan Craver -

  64. Why not just do what the other countries do: build a team of the best players that are not in the NBA? There must be thousands of players that have significant talent, but aren’t in the league that would jump at the opportunity to play for pay. Sign them to 5 year contracts, practice international rules, and play exhibition games here and abroad. Basketball is a team game, especially international rules basketball. So build a team of guys that actually have a common goal AND are good players.

    Comment by John -

  65. Very Nice ; and true. I don’t understand why we have a Highschool 3 point line, college 3 pointer and then Nba … It doesn’t prove useful in any international competition.

    Comment by pallet rack -

  66. Mark, Do you think the Mavericks (or another top-level NBA team) would fare better in International play?

    Comment by Bevan Houston -


    your post is right on the mark!
    one item that is also missing in international Basketball is individual player stats, it doesn’t matter, whereas in the NBA, players care abotu their stats…
    if there was some way to incorporate the player stats, I think it would help.
    just my .02

    Comment by bobby orbach -

  68. So who takes the place of the professional athletes? American amateurs?

    Comment by fast eddie -

  69. Very nice read!

    Comment by Gregh -

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