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Note to Stern: Fans really liked, tuned in for Olympic hoops

Aug 14, 2012, 9:22 PM EDT

US guard Kobe Bryant (C) celebrates with Getty Images

David Stern and the NBA owners don’t care what you think about an under-23 Olympic basketball tournament, because to them it’s about another way to make money off the players and you. This is all about money for them not whether it is good for the sport.

If the ratings here on NBC are any indication, you like Olympic basketball.

The gold medal game between the USA and Spain — on a Sunday morning — had an 8.2 rating and drew 12.5 million viewers. That is the most that have watched a gold medal game since 2000 and doubles the ratings from Beijing.

The NBC Sports Network broadcast the other USA men’s hoops games and those averaged 2.6 million viewers, up 81 percent from the USA network when it showed the Beijing. The biggest ratings for a game this time around? Argentina. Because you can’t take your eyes off Manu Ginobili.

If David Stern and the owners get their way and a World Cup of Basketball supplants the Olympics as the main international hoops competition (and the Olympics become an under-23 tournament) there will still be good basketball and patriotism, but the ratings simply will not be as good. For all our frustrations with the Olympics, we love the pageantry and the spectacle. We love the tradition. We love to see our hoop heroes mingled with gymnasts and cyclists and track stars. We love to see basketball as part of something bigger, not just another made-for-television tournament.

By the way, the USA women’s gold medal game drew 10.2 million viewers, up 73 percent from Beijing four years before.

And the ratings from Rio — just one time zone ahead of the USA’s East Coast, should even be better.

  1. w18wheeler - Aug 14, 2012 at 10:20 PM

    Do you think that soccer loving countries said the same thing when the olympics became U-23 for soccer. No. The World Cup is a way bigger deal. U know why the best players are playing their hearts. You think people Argentina were sad because Lionel Messi wasn’t at a swim meet? No. Or people in Mexico disappointed that Javier Hernandez(from Man C) wasn’t at the high dive? No. If Stern was to create a World Cup of Basketball, the Basketball will have center stage. Soccer’s World Cup is the second biggest globe gathering after the Olympics. Don’t tell me that seen Kobe in the stands for a five second cut away before Gabby Douglas is doing her uneven bars, makes that such a wonderful that now that the whole thing is somehow the reason a World Cup Basketball is a bad idea.
    A World Cup of Basketball would be huge. The USA would have a Brazil like following. Everyone’s second favorite after their home countries. With more players from international leagues, many players with some name recognition, have made the USA vulnerable. The audience is there if the games are competitive, people don’t want to see blowouts by Team USA . The rating were high because it is an all-star game with the defense of a playoff game. That’s Soccer’s World Cup and that could be Basketball’s World Cup. Plus, everyone could take home a little change.

    • adzs - Aug 15, 2012 at 7:27 AM

      Firstly the Football world cup was established in the late twenties so obviously it has an established hold on society in many countries; it wasn’t the modern day experimental money-based brain child of some team owners. Further, there and tens of thousands more pro football players then there are basketballers, and with the college system being non-existent in football-playing countries many turn professional around 16-21 and are prevented game time; therefore the under-23 ruling in the olympics garners interest as it allows for relatively unknown players to make a name for themselve and prove a point on the world stage (”unknowns” that have done just that in the past include Cristiano Ronaldo, Tevez, Gervinho, Crespo, etc etc); The same level of interest wouldnt be possible for basketball where there is less under 23 talent and players outside of the USA can’t be expected to play at a superstar level at such ages (unless theres that once in a generation Lebron type player). Also i think there would be a problem with branding of some kind, with many countries already prioritising World Cups in Football, Rugby, Cricket, etc; even the current Fiba championships are not shown in my country (England) despite the sports increased popularity, due to it clashing with other sporting events, but every olympic game was covered and garnered large viewing figures. Finally, Hernandez plays for Man Utd not Man City…..

  2. kinggw - Aug 14, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    I don’t understand why people continue to bash Stern over this issue. He is doing his job. As commissioner his job is to look out for the best interests of the owners. Owners don’t want their million dollar investments to get injured in a tournament that they can’t profit from. I don’t necessarily agree with that point of view, but I don’t blame the owners either.

    • eventhorizon04 - Aug 14, 2012 at 11:03 PM

      Read the first sentence: “David Stern and the NBA owners don’t care what you think about an under-23 Olympic basketball tournament,”

      Kurt acknowledges that it isn’t Stern going rogue on a random idea that he came up with – Stern has the NBA owners backing him on this idea, and Kurt states that in the first sentence.

      And they’re getting bashed because a lot of people enjoy seeing America earning a ton of Gold medals at the Olympics, and their idea makes it less likely we win golds in basketball.

      • eugenesaxe - Aug 15, 2012 at 1:18 AM

        “their idea makes it less likely we win golds in basketball.”

        How do you figure that? We send our best under-23 team, so does everybody else. Are you saying Americans don’t get good at hoops until they’re 24? That under-23 Euros are so much better than us?

        Am I missing something here?

  3. qcubed3 - Aug 14, 2012 at 10:55 PM

    Stern’s job is to protect and grow the NBA. With the ’92 Dream Team in mind, the international game has grown leaps and bounds, and the popularity of the NBA has substantially increased in S. America, Europe, and Asia.

    That growth in popularity is directly attributable to Olympic basketball. No other tournament is going to supplant the Olympics inn popularity, and no other tournament does more to pique the World’s interest.

  4. brianjoates - Aug 14, 2012 at 11:28 PM

    Fans want to see stars, casual fans want to see teams loaded with superstars. Lebron, Wade and Bosh coming together was one of the best things to happen to the NBA brand. The London team was loaded with talent, they were fun to watch- hated all the 3’s , but they won the gold, impressively. If you dont have superstars you aren’t competing for a title. The NBA is professional sports you want to see the best basetball, not one guy having to carry a team every night.

  5. eugenesaxe - Aug 15, 2012 at 1:22 AM

    Why are Americans so opposed to under-23 at the Olympics and a separate FIBA tournament? Doesn’t that just mean 2 tournaments for America to dominate?

  6. somekat - Aug 15, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    So many people watched for a simple reason, it was basketball the way it is meant to be played (besides a couple stupid international rules they refuse to change). But it is a TEAM game in the olympics. It’s not just iso here, iso there, post up here, iso there like the NBA. That is directly because the way the game is called. Although much of the ridiculous flopping (looking at you spaniards) was annoying, calls were generally the same across the board. Didn’t matter if it was Kobe with the ball, or some no name guy from Croatia. When you cna’t just run a guy over becuase you are Lebron, or push off all day because you are Kobe, you are forced to play a more team minded game. Most of these guys would (emphasis on MOST), but not when it isnt’ to their advantage. The “star treatment” that is rampant in the NBA, and has been getting worse and worse under Stern, is what is killing th NBA

  7. southpaw77 - Aug 15, 2012 at 3:39 AM

    Stern doesn’t care about any fans opinions, he’s gonna put ads on jerseys, watch cold weather small markets get flushed with no talent or no all star games, he’s gonna try like hell to make the Olympics 23 and under, and play to mostly half empty buildings to any team without these super stars while most the owners lose money. TV ratings may be up because people aren’t going to the games live so congrats to their WWE type marketing where only the few have title hopes while the rest are speed bumps for the super 6 teams.

    PS- Its a proven fact that most players coming back from the Olympics has one of their best seasons. Barkley for example after the 92 games had his MVP season because he was in shape practicing against the elite instead of eatign doughnuts that summer. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Stern.

  8. manchestermiracle - Aug 15, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    I disagree that Stern doesn’t care about fans’ opinions. The fans are the ones who put the money in the NBA’s huge pockets. The fans are the ones who buy the advertiser’s products. To say the owners, and thus Stern, don’t care what their customers think is just flat stupid. Ads on jerseys? Who cares? I’m not watching the uniform, I’m watching the player. When there’s a timeout or it’s halftime I go take a piss or make lunch. I don’t watch the ads, but I understand their importance to the game.

    Even Stern and the owners must realize that allowing all NBA players to compete in international events raises their brand and provides priceless publicity. They are simply trying to balance that with protecting their assets like any business owner should. A dozen NBA players (out of hundreds) carrying the league’s water into potentially new markets can’t be an entirely bad thing.

    The only reason Stern and his bosses want a separate competition from the Olympics is money, pure and simple. It would happen every year instead of every four. It would have to include the best NBA players, so that torpedoes the idea Stern is promoting it to keep NBA superstars at home. That’s just a smokescreen so the established stars would have no choice but to go to Stern’s party. Stern, et. al., is trying to replicate the old AFL, but on a bigger scale. Good luck with that.

  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.

  10. djigel - Aug 15, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    Let’s see – I have a choice between archery, track prelims, or speed walking – I think I will watch basketball. It was highly rated because there was NOTHING else to watch on a Sunday morning. You can point to all the reasons given – which aren’t wrong – but it boils down to the fact that it was like “Seinfeld” going up against “Greg the Bunny.”

    I would not be opposed to a a U-23 tournament, but I am more in favor of a one and done rule for gold medals. Win a gold, let someone else have a turn. We should be able to win with that roster – if not, it may add a little drama to the games, which would make them more exciting to watch. It is nice to assert dominance over Angola, but how fun is that to watch? Yeah, there were close calls against Lithuania and Spain, but guess what? Those games were actually exciting to watch!

    We all like to watch all-stars – but we like drama. We like close games. We like to be excited by the possibility that the same team will not win every game, every season, etc. That is why the NFL is the most popular sport in America.

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