Some gold medal game, eh? Guess what happened back here in the States?
They showed the whole USA-Spain match (pardon my FIBAism) on NBC Sports Channel without any commercials. That’s right, without any commercials!
Who had that in the office pool?
Nobody, right? It would have been like picking Tunisia.
That’s the thing about the Olympics, Dave … you never quite know what’s going to happen by the time the final day of the whole shebang comes down. And when that once-ever-four-years moment comes around, it’s fasten your seatbelt time –whether you are sitting in the stands at the game itself, like you, or sitting on a sofa back in suburbia, like me.
Once every four years.
It’s both a shame and a blessing that it happens so seldom. It makes us appreciate FIBA basketball (a superior product to your own) all the much more, and then it tends to make us forget just how special Olympic basketball can be by the time the next four-year cycle has run its course. And it’s not just Americans, Dave. The bookmakers around London had Spain as high as a 25-1 underdog in the hour before tipoff.
Yup, 25-1 for a team with two Gasols and the guy (Serge Ibaka) who got robbed of the Defensive Player of the Year award because be plays in Oklahoma City instead of New York City, plus another guy (Juan Carlos Navarro) who found the whole NBA scene so tasteless and devoid of true passion that he left after one year in Memphis to return to Spain, where you don’t need some guy with a t-shirt gun to get the fans out of their seats.
I hope you got to congratulate our guys afterward in the locker room, and I especially hope you gave a shout-out in that room to LeBron James. Folks can love him or hate him, but he is having a better year than anyone on this planet. We’re all being treated to the sight of this man-child finally transforming into a man, and it was a long time coming.
Which brings us to you, David, and your plan to meet with FIBA chairman Patrick Baumann to push for an age restriction that would limit the Olympics to players 23 and under. A word of advice: Don’t be as disingenuous as your deputy, Adam Silver, was when he said y’all were making the push in the best interest of the foreign NBA players, whose federations’ standards of medical care are not up to snuff with American standards. Yes, Sasha Vujacic may once have had a sprained knee ligament treated with olive oil; but no, that is not reason enough to break out the dynamite.
The American and the non-American players have spoken loud and clear over the course of these Olympics, as USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo, and they all have spoken with passion.
Nobody agrees with you on this, David.
Nobody. (OK, Mark Cuban agrees with you, as do a few other NBA owners. We all understand that you work for them — although your dictatorial manner would suggest otherwise — and we all understand that you know where your bread is buttered.)
But a word to the wise on this one. Back off.
Permit me to repeat myself in all caps:
Nobody in America wants to see a World Cup of Basketball that would be open to players of all ages, which you claim would make up for the absence of those over the age of 23 in the Olympics.
Yes, that is the way they do it in soccer.
But soccer is a worldwide monster whose popularity basketball will never equal, at least not in our lifetimes. Soccer also has roughly a dozen teams with the ability to win the World Cup. Basketball has two — we Americans, and the Spanish.
A generation from now the playing field might be a little more level, but let’s face it: This is the sport in which the United States sends its most dominant team(s) — no, Dave, I haven’t forgotten about our women and their 20-year winning streak — and its most high-profile athletes. With all due respect to Michael Phelps, he could walk down any street in the middle of Manhattan and go unnoticed for block after block after block. James Harden couldn’t even do that, to say nothing of the 10 guys ahead of him in the rotation who will be flying home tomorrow with gold medals around their necks.
From the sound of things, Baumann is going to tell you to back off anyway. He has 220 national federations to deal with, and he is not afraid of you, nor will he allow himself to be bullied by you. As much as Baumann wants the World Cup or the World Championship to be a bigger event, he is not going to cut off his left hand to make sure his right hand becomes more useful.
You can fool some of the people some of the time, and most of the people most of the time if your last name happens to be Stern. Didn’t you have the universe convinced a year ago that the NBA needed to shut down for at least a year to get a financial system in place that would allow the Bobcats and Bucks of the NBA to compete with the Heats and the Lakers?
In this case, you are trying to fool a global audience of billions with your 23-and-under nonsense.
And you know what? The world will hate you if you push forward with this ill-advised scheme. You think it’s already bad enough that they boo you when you hand out the championship trophy, that they boo you as lustily when you call the 30th pick of the draft as they do when you call out the first pick?
I know you are comfortable being the designated bad guy. It goes with the territory in a job like yours.
But for your sake, and for the sake of all Americans (because you speak for us when you are on foreign soil), come to your senses on this and back off.
(RELATED CONTENT: David Stern Wants to Ruin The Olympics, Part I)
(RELATED CONTENT: David Stern Wants to Ruin the Olympics, Part II)
It’s already bad enough that we have to endure three timeouts in every fourth quarter of every NBA playoff game — timeouts that last 3 minutes. It’s bad enough that the guy with the t-shirt gun is often the only guy that can roust fans from their seats. It’s bad enough that the referees and their video-review system have slowed the pace of the NBA game to an even slower crawl.
Leave the Olmypics alone!
It is the one breath of fresh air that we get once every four years. It ain’t broken, so don’t try to fix it. If anything, try to emulate it. That gold medal game was a classic, just like the one in Beijing. Let us all have another four-year fix in Rio, and beyond.
Don’t be the ugly American who ruined Olympic basketball. It won’t help your legacy, it won’t help the IOC, it won’t help FIBA, it won’t help the globalization of basketball, and it will infuriate Planet Earth.
Leave well enough alone, and let’s savor the memory of what we just witnessed rather than worry that we’ve witnessed it for the final time.
Chris Sheridan is the publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.