The globalization of the NBA — likely one of the greatest legacies during David Stern’s 30 years as NBA commissioner — took a dramatic turn Friday in Las Vegas when Indiana Pacers forward Paul George suffered a horrific broken leg in a Blue-White scrimmage at Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas. George was one of 20 NBA players vying for a spot on Team USA that will compete at the FIBA World Cup, which begins Aug. 30 in Spain.
George, a key member of the Pacers, is expected to miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season.
MORE: Gruesome injuries in sports | George's recovery prognosis
"Without a doubt, basketball has grown tremendously since 1992, when NBA players began playing in the Olympics," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement released Sunday evening. "Also, it's important to note the [improvement] many of our players have made in terms of ability, leadership and passion for the game by playing for their home countries. Injuries can happen any place at any time. The experiences our players have enjoyed by participating in their national teams, however, are ones that are unique and special in almost every other way. At this point, I don't anticipate a major shift in the NBA's participation in international competitions.
"It seems clear, however, that this will be a topic at our next NBA competition committee meeting in September and our board of governors meeting in October. And, of course, we will continue to evaluate the pros and cons of participating in international tournaments."
After winning a bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics with a team made up of NCAA stars, USA Basketball began working with David Stern and the NBA. Their goal — the men’s basketball tournament at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics would for the first time allowing NBA players to compete against professional basketball players representing other competing countries. The Dream Team, basketball’s most talked about sqauad (11 of the 12 members are in the Basketball Hall of Fame), won the gold medal winning by an average of 44 points per game.
In the years leading up to the NBA’s inclusion, the basketball world never backed away from the inevitably of what took place at the Barcelona Olympics. Boris Stanković at the time serving as FIBA’s secretary-general (the governing body for international basketball) believed it was time for NBA players to play for Olympic and World Championship Gold: “The best players in the world want to play against the best America has to offer,” Stanković was often heard to say, “Some of our national teams may lose by 50 or 60 points but wait 10 years, you’ll see players from other countries will be better players after having the opportunity to compete against the best basketball has to offer.”
Twelve years later, at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Stanković was proven to be a prophet; Argentina won gold, Italy silver and the United States bronze. The USA won gold at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics; however, as a direct result of David Stern’s vision, basketball has become a global sport.
There has been a very public outcry from the basketball community since Friday night — many calling for the NBA to end the participation of their players in international basketball competitions.
The most vocal critic has been Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who released the following statement to ESPN on Saturday: "The [International Olympic Committee] is playing the NBA. The IOC is an organization that has been rife with corruption, to the point where a member was accused of trying to fix an Olympic event in Salt Lake. The IOC [pulls in] billions of dollars. They make a killing and make Tony Soprano look like a saint.
"The pros in multiple sports are smart enough to not play when they are eligible free agents. But teams take on huge financial risk so that the IOC committee members can line their pockets.
"The greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money. The players and owners should get together and create our own World Cup of Basketball."
Cuban is one of the NBA’s best owners and has every right to express how he feels, but that said, to suggest “the greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money” suggests the IOC needs the NBA. Nothing could be further from the truth. The billions of dollars the IOC generates from the Olympic movement has little to do with the NBA. If the NBA decides to take their basketballs and not play in anymore Olympic Games, rest assured, the Olympic Games will thrive and survive. The Olympic Games are a great deal bigger than the NBA will ever be.
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