Time for USA Basketball Team to go Under 21

There was a note in today’s NY Times saying that European Soccer leaders have unanimously backed a proposal to limit participation in future Olympics to players under the age of 21. (Currently, the Olympics are limited to under 23 plus 3 overage players. ).

All I can say is Amen.

I have argued why its crazy for the NBA to loan its best players to the USOC , which is first, last and middle a for profit organization that is using our players to generate billions of dollars of revenues. Not millions, BILLIONs.

Its crazy on every level.

Now that the European Soccer Community is pushing to remove their most highly paid and best players from the Olympics, we should support their efforts.

For the major revenue generating sports, the Olympics are no longer about Patriotism. They are a business.

If we want to find out which country has the best basketball, lets create a competitive tournament that is honest about why it exists and make it a profit making entity that shares the profits with its participants. A notion that is foreign to the Olympic Committee .

When we sent the Dream Team in 1992,  it was the right thing to do at the right time.  Our competition was sending what were essentially professional teams to face our collegiate players. Today, that is no longer the case. The NBA and professional basketball has become an international sport.

We could still send our under 21 players to the Olympics.  They will represent our country admirably, Im sure.  More importantly, it would be a great business move for the NBA. Those players we send will get far more branding and marketing assigned to them then their current one and done collegiate careers (and the prospects of playing in the Olympics may incent them to stay in college as well).

The incremental branding the Olympics would provide the players would make them far more valuable to, and marketable by the NBA should they make it to our level. To those who can’t, as young Olympians, their opportunity to continue their careers as pro players in other leagues would improve as well.

NBA fans, and this owner are tired of players who are unable to play to their full potential because they play for other profit seeking enterprises . Its not just about Mavs players. Its about players for all NBA teams. Its harder to sell tickets when a star on the other team cant play due to injury. Its time we follow the lead of these European Soccer leaders and ask our players to only play for  the profit seeking enterprise that pays them and limit the Olympics to players under 21. IF the Olympics can make billions using our under 21 players, more power to them.



22 thoughts on “Time for USA Basketball Team to go Under 21

  1. I think the one thing we would see is a much more exciting game. I think would see a lot of kids try to make a name for themselves. Also there is no real ego’s. I would love to see this.

    I’d love to see Hockey play with the young guys as well. Love the NHL, but I think there is a special element to watching the young guys play the olympics.

    Comment by performancepartsj -

  2. We should also go under 21 because using the pros is boring. Basketball is a team sport. Putting a bunch of players together does not necessarily make a great team. This can be pretty simple, you win the college national championship, you’re the Olympic team. Best team goes, easy.

    Comment by David -

  3. If you want to determine which country has the best athletes then you get the best… If you do otherwise, it’s just entertainment as far as I’m concerned. If the players don’t want to represent their country, they can say no. These professional athletes make enough money to take a few weeks out of the season every two years to represent, or they can say no. I don’t care.

    I’m so tired of all of the BS in professional athletics that I couldn’t care less about the olypics/professional sports/ and I’m quickly growing tired of college football with this arbitrary BCS system, that is set to generate cash…

    I’d rather attend my daughters high school soccer, or for that matter any high school event, where athletes and the institutions they represent are still playing for some valid reasons other than A) to generate cash, or B) the hopes to generate some in the future.

    Comment by tzugidan -

  4. The U.S. Olympic basketball squad should be a team of talented professionals not under NBA contracts — the Harlem Globetrotters! In non-Olympic years, the Trotters do their silly antics; leading into the Olympics, they play a serious schedule against college teams, NBA teams, and foreign club and national squads. Then they go to the Olympics and kick ass!

    Comment by Ken Carpenter -

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  6. Good post. Your an owner and your puzzled by the NBA loaning players to the Olympic Team? That is major disconnect. Just watched an old rerun special on Nirvana ~ it seems when people want to work together they accomplish something and when they don’t nothing happens. Metaphysics and Serendipity are alive and well.

    Comment by thebigpraetor -

  7. I am looking for investors for my website that I just launched http://www.cardzam.com

    Comment by kms281 -

  8. Whether amateur or pro sports is selected is another argument altogether.

    I’ve always felt that every country sends the best of their best to represent them and may the best win. That’s the spirit of the Olympics I think. So if they’re going to include basketball, baseball, etc. in the Olympics, we should send our best. There’s something to be said for removing “professional” sports from the Olympics. It won’t draw as many viewers if they take out basketball and replace it with fencing, for example. But there are tons of athletes in lesser known sports that deserve a spot on the world stage.

    Comment by loucons -

  9. I thought the Olympics were supposed to be amateurs….

    Comment by dallasloanguy -

  10. The real problem here is the “win at any cost” attitude of most of us Americans, and I’m sure, other folks around the world. The Dream team was our response to other countries paying their athletes to practice year round yet still not calling them “professionals”. Once the amateur status of Olympic participants went out the window so did the idea of real competition. The mantra became “we must send our best”. I stopped watching Olympic basketball years ago. It’s like an All Star game with a few really good players (mostly from the NBA) and a bunch of pretenders. Is it really important if Spain (Ginobili) beats Germany (Dirk)?
    The same is true for hockey and about to be true for golf. DO we need another world stage for golf?
    The Olympics are a nice show every two years but making it a do or die proposition that determines our pecking order in the world seems a bit of overkill.

    Comment by agman65 -

  11. Mark,

    Great point… however, this would or could be embarrassing to team USA as the Euro teams are no longer a walk in the park… even at the collegiate age. USA basketball will not hold up like it thinks it can on the world stage.

    Even with the big NBA all stars, they came close to losing to world talented baller. I think they will be middle of the pack with college players. But I will always credit the dream team for sparking the world stage to sell the game.

    Comment by jayleishman -

  12. I agree 100%. Professional athletes be banned from all Olympic competion.

    Comment by darryl3 -

  13. Mr. Cuban,

    You’re right (as usual) about basketball, though the soccer analogy is weak.

    The Olympics are irrelevant in international soccer. If basketball was like soccer, you would have half your team playing major international tournaments every two summers as well as playing qualifying competitions and flying halfway across the world for friendlies during the NBA season.

    Comment by tyduffy -

  14. Mark, you only own the team, not the player. Essentially your argument is motivated by greed: you believe as the owner of your organization, you should see a part of any $$$ generated by your employee. Well, that’s ridiculous. What players do in their off-season is their business. The players want to represent their country and the country wants to see the best players represent them. The only people that don’t want this to happen are you, the owners.

    And it’s true that the USOC benefits from having big name NBA players in the Olympics, who “work” for free. The same way the NCAA benefits from collegiate athletes “working” for free. A more prudent solution is changing the business structure of the USOC rather than undermining the quality of play at the Olympics.

    Now the argument that players participating in the Olympics get injured/tired is a fair and understandable one, but as a fan I’d rather have Kobe or Lebron take a week or two off at the start of the season in exchange for a gold medal.

    Comment by loucons -

  15. The Olympics is all about making money from the sponsors and generating new revenues for the city that host the event. I have not seen the Olympics as a true form of competition for one’s country in a long time.

    I like many fans have no issue not sending our best players to the event. If it means that they will be tired, injured or simply used to market the machine.

    They can say what they want about the Olympics, but the bottom line is they have a huge cash machine that brings in billions of dollars. They will not be hurting if we do not send our NBA Stars to the event.

    It would be a good way to brand some of the future stars of the NBA using the Olympics as the stage. Sure we might not win as many Gold Medals with the younger players. But they would gain great exposure and play vs. some solid talent.

    Now as far as NBA stars that come here from other countries, they may have true feelings towards the Olympics. It should be up to them to choose to play in the event for their countries. Not that the NBA needs any help bringing in talent from over the pond, but it never hurts to showcase a foreign player that chooses to play in the NBA.

    One of the promotions that my company Ballpark Signs want to do with the NBA is to secure a license to create art canvas prints called “NBA Spotlights”. Our plan is to incorporate a charity with the art collection pieces and market them to the fans of the player/team.

    Is it possible for you as an NBA owner to work with a player like Dirk for promotional purposes in his country during the Olympics. If so, you guys (NBA Owners) should be finding ways to profit from within their countries. If you cannot stop the players from being in the events, then use the events to help generate new funds for your teams! Player/Team/Country Art Collections would be a good product to market overseas. 😉

    Thanks for the article on sports, it’s always a pleasure to get a glimpse of an owners mindset on important topics!!!

    Any chance you would do an article on Universities trying to lower the legal drinking age. They claim their motive is to help prevent binge drinking. I think they are just trying to lower the drinking age so they can sell beer during the games.

    Comment by ballparkmark -

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  17. Comparing how soccer treats the Olympics and how basketball treats the Olympics is not relevant. If you want to make that comparison then Soccer would be voting to take all overage players from the World Cup and not the Olympics.

    The Olympics is outside the FIFA calendar and the relationship that clubs have with letting their players play is very sketchy as they are not ‘required’ to release them as they are for qualifying matches for the World Cup, European Championship, African cup of Nations, etc…

    Be happy that the Olympics is only once every four years and during the summer and not during the season. Soccer loses their players for a week at a time a minimum of 5 times each season during the season.

    Comment by blueboars -

  18. FIFA’s main motivation is probably protecting both the world cup and the top European clubs who don’t want to risk their star players getting hurt.

    Likewise if I were an NBA owner, I’d be less than enthusiastic about exposing my key assets to injury from an enterprise that won’t really benefit me.

    By keeping it U21, you probably get the most even playing field as I’m sure the equivalent of our collegiate players are playing for pro clubs in Europe at that point.

    Comment by csfan -

  19. an under21 team would be all nba players…

    Comment by mateo2 -

  20. Mark, some major flaws in your thinking:

    1. As pointed out by hamedb0001, european soccer players ARE made available for major tournaments every 2 (!) years. That´s also the reason why they even think about not sending them to the Olympics. They don´t want 3 tournaments, plus traditionally the World Championships are more important than the Olympics in soccer!

    2. NO other country would even think about sending youth teams to the Olympics in basketball. That´s THE most important tournament, for the countries´ basketball associations as well as the players. European leagues need the Olympics for marketing their product, they don´t care that the NBA doesn´t.

    3. If the USA decide to send college players again, fine. But they won´t ever win a medal again. So I guess that option is off?

    4. Bonus for NBA owners with major foreign stars (like Dirk, Manu, Parker, Gasol): these guys will NEVER agree to not play in the Olympics. They grow up dreaming about being in the games! (different story with US-born players, they dream about the NBA) So if the US players don´t go, teams with foreign star players would be screwed even more, because they are the only ones hit.

    To make a long story short: forget it!!

    Comment by snarf25 -

  21. Reasonable points, but before you hold up European football/soccer authorities as an example of what you are striving for, please bear something in mind:

    European football clubs are obligated to make their players available for international football tournaments such as the World Cup, European Championships etc. As well as the quadrennial tournaments themselves there are extensive qualifying matches to be played, so clubs have to weave these international breaks intothe season itself as well as the off-season.

    Some of the tournaments take place during the season (e.g. the African Cup of Nations). Top players such as Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o will be absent from their clubs for 4-6 weeks in the middle of the season, and will probably (if past form is anything to go by) be tired and/or injured when they return.

    I appreciate that football and basketball are very different: the biggest difference is obviously that football has a much stronger history of international competition, and the fans would simply not tolerate any infringement on the important international tournaments. Football fans simply do not care about the Olympic football tournament, whereas basketball fans do care about bball in the Olympics.

    Comment by hamedb0001 -

  22. Great read and excellent points. The Olympics havent been showing our country pride in along time. Its how much money can we make off these people then send them back to their countries tried & hurt. I truly agree with you and I support the cause!!!

    Comment by tasha -

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