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Winderman: Olympics far more compelling than Stern’s World Cup of Basketball dream

Aug 13, 2012, 10:17 PM EDT

(From L) US gold medalists Kevin Durant, Getty Images

Imagine if Sunday’s compelling doubleheader of United States-Spain and Argentina-Russia wasn’t the Olympics. Imagine if it was David Stern’s got-to-have World Cup of Basketball, the you-bet-it’s-on-the-way NBA-proposed tournament.

Would the play have been as gripping? There is no reason to believe otherwise.

Would national pride have been as paramount? National colors resonate no matter the venue.

But here’s why it wouldn’t have been the same:

Because it wouldn’t have been woven into an international carnival of sports.

Take the world’s premier national-team basketball championship out of the Olympics (some say the World Championships already mean more, but we know better), and all you have is, well, the world’s premier national-team basketball championship, something you’d be likely to find on some Fox Sports regional network or with ESPN commentators calling games off monitors in Bristol.

What the Olympics give us is LeBron and Kobe and KD marching behind a fencer carrying the United States flag, alongside wrestlers, weightlifters, kayakers.

What the Olympics give us is LeBron and Kobe and KD in the stands at tennis or soccer or volleyball.

What the Olympics give us is that rare moment when NBA elitists are merely part of the program, willing parts of the program, appreciative of their place in the greater sporting landscape.

Yes, the accommodations were separate and upgraded, but the gold medals were exactly the same as those for Misty and Kerri and others even lesser known who soon will return to day jobs out of financial necessity.

And that’s part of why we watched, because Sunday’s men’s basketball gold was bigger that just basketball, it was another check mark in the gold column, another part of the ledger that put this country ahead of other countries, at a time when our politicians only seem to be telling us what’s wrong with our country.

For two weeks, these NBA stars were part of something bigger than not only themselves, but also bigger than their sport.

Reduce the Olympic basketball competition to something along the lines of soccer’s 23-and-under and you’ll wind up with the men’s Olympic soccer tournament, a competition so nondescript that Spain seemingly couldn’t even be bothered by competing.

Basketball fans weren’t the only watching LeBron and Kobe and KD on Sunday. So were, well, sports fans, and Olympic fans.

That’s something you won’t get from a World Cup of basketball.

Because that only will be about basketball.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

  1. thetooloftools - Aug 13, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    David Stern’s TIME HAS PASSED. He needs to walk away. Or maybe the HUGE salary keeps him hanging on to power. He made an (|) out of himself on the Jim Rome show. He really was low rent. Own it DAVID.
    This new CBA with the players will still not shift the balance of power and the salary cap will only allow very wealthy owner to take a TAX LOSS on the bazillions they are making other places and fans will leave.
    Like I have.
    Good Night.
    Click
    Don’t give a ~hit anymore.
    LA.. is the new Miami who was the new Kicks who may become the Clippers or the …. _______ fill in the blank.
    New Jersey wants to build a ghetto team and thug punk the NBA… but I guess that didn’t happen.
    Forget L.A. #12 would have gone GOLD in Brooklyn. Such a poor poor fool. Money rich. brain lost. Fire your posse tonight.
    Don’t look at the $ on the contract. Look at the $ that people wanted a peice of you for by playing in New York.
    P L E A S E
    I’m serious.
    L.A. is Kobe’s team. Get on board BOY or walk the plank.
    {having said that… he’s a stone cold KILLA}.
    He will rip a heart out and show it to them while it is still pumping and say” You might need this”… and throw it back at them.
    I LOVE IT.
    You better strap you chin strap on #12. Because Kobe is the Jeweler, who wants more bling.
    It is what it is.

  2. abasketballthing - Aug 14, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    So basically, you’re saying that the Olympics give us a few nice little moments that you really enjoy, and for that reason they are better than a Basketball World Cup, even if the Cup can make basketball more relevant internationally.

  3. jedifriedchicken - Aug 14, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    Typically, I enjoy just most of the articles I read on PBT, but I couldn’t agree less with you. Basketball gaining a world cup, and soccer’s Olympic competition being an under 23 are two different conversations. I agree, soccer being under 23 in the Olympics sucks. They should toss that rule so the fans can take it more seriously. A world cup replacing the world championship would be awesome though, and something the rest of the world could get more into.

    • adzs - Aug 14, 2012 at 7:02 AM

      Couldn’t disagree with you more on that soccer comment; Yes tro begin with many people were uninterested, but the fact is we see enough of the top older players in leagues like the premier league, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, etc, aswell as the Continental competitions and then finally the world cup. Vy the end of the tournament a lot of people had joined viewership numbers because the chance to see some of the worlds top stars perform regularly is a rarity (also on the spanish comment in the article i doubt them guys were uninterested especially seeing as most of them couldnt get into the spanish team due to being spanish rather than any other nationality and also as there was some kind of record available for them to set if they won the tournament). Now with emphasis on the article itself i couldn’t agree more; where im at (England) Basketball has grown leaps and bounds, and yet the FIBA championships are not shown on terrestrial tv and, historically, shown sporiadically on sky (cable); The olympics provided most people with the opportunity to tune into top international basketball, and it was the dedication shown by all these international teams that led to soccer players in this country being lambasted for their money grabbing ways; simply put basketball wouldn’t have the same kind of exposure were it to hold a ”world cup” rather than prioritise the olympics. Finally, i think the branding of such a competition would struggle to sell; Theres already THE World Cup, then the Rugby World Cup, and then the cricket world cup; just the name ”The Fiba World Cup” or ”Basketball World Cup” would sound odd in a lot of places..congrats to anyone who could bare to read this entire comment lool (Y)

      • adzs - Aug 14, 2012 at 7:03 AM

        *Worlds top young stars

  4. skinsfanwill - Aug 14, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    Call a rat a rat. This proposition has nothing to do with basketball. It’s about making money for the owners. Of course it was proposed by Mark Cuban.

  5. cktai - Aug 14, 2012 at 2:45 AM

    The handball final promised to be much more even and exciting than the basketball final, so I was watching that. By the time I switched to basketball, at the start of the fourth quarter, it was already decided :x

  6. onbucky96 - Aug 14, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    Seems the players like to play in the Olympics. If Darth Stern wants his new tournament, doesn’t the players association have to sign off on this? Davey may have a problem holding his circus if all his stars stay home, both here and abroad.

  7. cantonbound13 - Aug 14, 2012 at 8:00 AM

    If Stern is a part of it there is a good chance the result will be fixed.

  8. dylude - Aug 14, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    LMAO.

    World Cup of Soccer.

    End of argument. It is possible.

    • burtsywurtsy - Aug 14, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      The difference between the soccer world cup and a basketball style world cup is about how competitive it would be. Obviously certain teams dominate world soccer, Spain, Brazil etc, but no team has had such a period of dominance as the USA has with basketball.

      What’s the point in having a World Cup if one team wins it every year? If the NBA want this they should work on helping leagues in other countries where basketball is popular but drastically under-funded such as Spain, UK and the countries that now make up the former Yugoslavia become more competitive if they want to create a tournament that would be anywhere near as popular as the soccer world cup.

      716 million people watched the Soccer World Cup final because it is a popular sport the world over. In comparison 28.2 million watched the final game of the NBA finals. Basketball needs to increase it’s appeal domestically in countries other than the USA before it could even consider reaching the numbers of people the Soccer World Cup does.

  9. KOBEshigawa - Aug 15, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    All you really needed to do was watch the fourth quarter of the game to see why putting an under-23 limit is an awful idea. If that rule were enacted, we would have been watching Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams alongside Kevin Durant, rather than Chris Paul and LeBron James. I do understand the NBA’s desire to have their own event (the World Cup of Bball) and the perks along with it (basketball gets the entire spotlight, not just a sport within the Olympics), but the players are always going to want to play in the Olympics.
    http://thegreatmambino.blogspot.com/2012/08/basketball-world-cup-vs-olympic-games.html

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