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FIBA head says no to under-23 Olympics basketball

Aug 17, 2012, 8:33 PM EDT

(From L) US centre Anthony Davis, US gua Getty Images

David Stern and the NBA owners are going to have a much tougher hill to climb to sell the idea of an under-23 Olympics tournament than they thought. They can’t just lock everyone out until they get their way this time.

The players hate the idea and spoke out unanimously against it. Fans hate it — and showed they liked the current format by tuning in with the biggest ratings for the gold medal game in more than a decade.

And FIBA Secretary General and IOC member Patrick Baumann shot down the under-23 idea in no uncertain terms in an interview on FIBA’s web site, something first noticed by Chris Sheridan of

Baumann’s first reason is that if you think the USA has an unfair advantage sending its NBA players, that’s nothing compared to the under-23 gap.

From a global perspective, the progress of the talent in all other countries doesn’t go at the same speed or the same pace as the USA. They don’t all have a school system like the USA. So the ability for the rest of the world to produce a lot of talent is not the same as the USA. As a result of that, lowering the age to U23 at the Olympics could actually widen the divide between the USA and the rest of the world.

There is also a more general issue of what the Olympic Games represent. The NBA, the IOC and FIBA, we have all earned a lot – not just in financial terms – from professional athletes being at the Olympics since 1992. This is the case with regards to the way basketball has grown, from where we were then to where we are now.

So it would be premature to make changes in the quality of basketball at the Olympics, especially before having maximised the potential of the World Cup. So it’s too early to make any changes in the Olympic programme.

FIBA’s main man does talk about boosting the profile of the existing World Cup of Basketball and of petitioning to add 3-on-3 basketball for the next Olympics games. But he’s not touching the tournament age limit.

You can bet Stern and the owners are still going to try and push it, still try to pump up the World Cup by partnering with FIBA, by trying to offer the one thing they have the most of — money.

NBA owners see all the money the Olympics generate and they want a piece of it for using “their” players. They would never phrase it that way, but that is the reality of their actions on this. They see the money and they want a cut, and they think partnering with FIBA can get them that. (Well, not Mark Cuban, he wants the NBA to strike out on its own with an international tournament.)

They all miss on how the Olympics is a much bigger stage to promote their product than one they could create themselves in a World Cup — there were 40 current and former NBA players in the Olympic tournament and they were the cream of the crop, including 21 in the gold medal game. The World Cup of Basketball will never be the platform and draw the Olympics are based both on tradition and on the fact that the Olympics are more than just hoops.

And that really is the best part of the Olympic experience for basketball — it is part of something bigger than itself. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and Kevin Durant are hanging out with cyclists and rowers at the opening ceremonies, they are showing up to watch beach volleyball, they are representing our nation the right way.

Sometimes it’s about more than money. Or, at least it should be.

  1. BigBeachBall - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    get rid of the vets imo… the rising stars inevitably overplay and hurt themselves… example: Griffin
    a team of 22 year old rising stars is adequate and the injuries from overplaying will be held in check.
    not sure if griffin will even be ready to start next season..

  2. eugenesaxe - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:45 PM

    “They don’t all have a school system like the USA.”
    No, but don’t the Euro “club” teams have players not even old enough to go to college? Didn’t Rubio start his pro career at 14? Not exactly a valid argument when they have freshmen playing against grown men on a regular paid basis.
    And our players and the rest of the world will go for it once the $$$ becomes too hard to ignore.

    • censoredpost - Aug 17, 2012 at 11:10 PM

      That Idea is almost as crazy as Ad space on the NBA Uniforms…Wait a second.

  3. ambitoos - Aug 17, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    The NBA needs to stay as far away from the Olympics as possible. The coaches and players are free to do as they like in the off season. David Stern can go where the sun don’t shine.

  4. detroit20iron - Aug 18, 2012 at 12:44 AM

    David Stern can shove it.

    • florida727 - Aug 21, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      Agreed. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one with a grin on my face when reading that FIBA essentially told David Stern to shove his idea up his @$$. Can Stern be any more self-serving?

  5. monkeyhateclean - Aug 18, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    How about an over 23 team AND an under 23 team? The 2 teams can scrimmage against each other, with the older team being the official Olympic representative, while the younger team gets some FIBA experience and is groomed for the following Olympic games.

  6. icdogg - Aug 18, 2012 at 1:22 AM

    Mark Cuban was on Bill Maher talking about it tonight. He said you pay these guys 15 million dollars a year to play, and then they go and play for free for NBC?

  7. barbeaux - Aug 18, 2012 at 1:25 AM

    They “play for free” for their countries. Let’s not be capitalist pigs about everything.

    • icdogg - Aug 18, 2012 at 2:40 AM

      That may be true but big corporations profit from it. And the IOC guys are living the good life from it.

  8. barbeaux - Aug 18, 2012 at 1:27 AM

    As far as the Rbio example okay that’s one in one country. How about all the others?

  9. zblott - Aug 18, 2012 at 7:24 AM

    Too bad we don’t have a time machine to play all the possible Dream Teams ever against each other if NBA players were allowed in from the beginning. If so, 1968 would win gold, 1984 would take gold, and 1992 bronze. Check out the arguments:

  10. rajbais - Aug 18, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    David Stern, it’s time to retire!!!!

    You want an age 20 draft rule that likely will not get passed in this current collective bargaining agreement and possibly for another 10 years (because that is how long the CBA is) and you want 23-year-olds in the Olympics???

    You want to know why the Olympic age limit is a bad rule, check out Anthony Davis!!!! He was so stellar!!!

    Another thing, ban players who never stepped on a NBA floor!!! Emeka Okafor, Christian Laettner, and Anthony Davis are probably three of the most unproductive players in the dream team era!! That is why college players are bad for the Olympics particularly when young players’ fundamentals are at an all-time low!!!

    Wow you are retired take Jerry Colangelo with you too!!!

  11. charlescub80 - Aug 18, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    How about under 28?

    • florida727 - Aug 21, 2012 at 12:34 PM

      How about an under-50? (Damn, I still don’t qualify.)

  12. sageandjudahsdad - Aug 18, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    Even if FIBA doesn’t do it. America still should!!!

  13. niubears - Aug 19, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Wait. 3-on-3 Olympic basketball? That would be awesome to watch.

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