Kobe says Team USA should be paid, but they would play anyway

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Dwyane Wade created a firestorm a few months back when he dared agree with Ray Allen that the USA Basketball players should be paid for their time at the Olympics representing the USA.

Wade backtracked soon after, because you can’t win that PR battle. Not when you march into Opening Ceremonies next to a wrestler or table tennis player who has given up so much financially and otherwise just to be there.

But that doesn’t mean the sentiment isn’t still there among the players. Look at what Kobe Bryant said on the USA’s first day in London, via the Los Angeles Times (hat tip to SLAM):

“There’s some truth to that,” Bryant said (of the team getting paid). “But we’re all here because we enjoy playing. Even though a lot of us probably share the same opinion, it’s not like we’re saying, ‘Well, we’re not going to play if you don’t pay us.’ We play. We do it because we want to.”

Players are paid a stipend/per diem, but like the NBA travel money it’s not that much to these guys.

Kobe couched his comment in the “we would do it anyway” mentality. But the fact is — and this is part of what eats at Mark Cuban and the owners — that Team USA helps the Olympics and USA Basketball generate a whole lot of money. They are sold, from jerseys to television rights. And unlike their NBA salaries, they do not see a dime of it. So you can make a capitalistic argument if you want.

But you cannot win the PR battle. That’s a dead end street. Not when a lot of athletes there make financial sacrifices to play. Not when you are playing for your country (and don’t need the money anyway).

Besides, these games help promote the international brands of Kobe, LeBron James and others. If they are going to be paid, have Nike do it, because they are the ones that sell more shoes in China and around the globe because of having NBA players on this stage.