In the end, the debate about installing a 23-and-under age limit for the Olympics is about money. It will get framed other ways, but it’s always about money. NBA owners don’t want “their” players wearing themselves down and risking injury in a summer tournament — unless they are getting a piece of the profits, of course.
With David Stern as their front man, the owners will push for it in the coming years. But former NBA owner and current USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo opposes the idea.
Ultimately, the decision isn’t Colangelo’s. But he is lobbying owners not to impose the rule. He said players want to decide whether or not to play for the Olympic team.
“They love it,” Colangelo said. “I mean, it’s pretty hard to argue with something as simple as supporting the flag and representing your country.”
What the NBA owners want to see is something more like the soccer model, where the World Cup is the big stage and Olympics is an under-23 event (with each team getting three players over that age limit). What the owners really want is a partnership with FIBA so that they would get a piece of this World Cup of basketball. (Mark Cuban wants the NBA to just start its own international event.)
For all their other reasoning, this is about money for the owners. Henry Abbott breaks it down well at TrueHoop.
The players, if they choose, can control this discussion. Because if they don’t show up for this World Cup it will flop. The elite players are the commodity and if they unify on wanting to go to the Olympics and not another event, they will get their way.
And in their ear the entire time will be Nike and Adidas — the Olympics are a huge marketing platform for these companies and they want their hoops stars on that stage.
It’s going to be a topic for the next few years. Now we know where Colagelo stands.