I realize that when our US Olympic Basketball Team heads to Athens this August that our chances of winning the gold are significantly higher with NBA players filling the roster. However, think for just a second how much fun it would be to have college players again fill the spots on the Olympic Team.
Since the 1992 "Dream Team" of Jordan, Robinson, and the Superstars of the then NBA took to the Olympics it has not even been close. The United States has dominated. However, the countries we compete with are obviously gaining ground on us as proven by our World Game losses for the first time a few summers back and the major foreign immigration to the NBA which has started to overtake the NBA Draft.
This summer, more than any Olympics in the past our team may struggle to win the gold, yet it is still almost a given that the US will bring home the gold.
It seems disheartening to think that we would even consider trading this post of World Dominator in basketball and welcome a transition to being underdogs.
Still, consider the energy the college game would receive by having the best college players in the country replace the best professional players in the country in the Olympics. Fans who typically pay no attention to the college game in favor of the NBA may find a new and incredible energy watching kids (yes I did say kids, that is what they are in college) play their butts off for nothing more than the words United States across their jerseys. The energy the college game is played with is not evidenced in the NBA, especially not in the regular season. No one should expect to see such energy in the US Olympic basketball team this August. However I do welcome the idea of being gladly surprised by them.
Just image Duke Fans pulling for Rashad McCants, Maryland fans cheering on J.J. Redick, or Wake fans encouraging Julius Hodge. It all seems far fetched, but oh what fun it would be to do once every four years. Image Roy Williams coaching Daniel Ewing on how to best run a team, or Gary Williams blasting a ref arguing against a foul called on Sean May. Image the hustle and bustle of the Olympic Team tryouts. Think about 50 college kids with out a dime in their pocket fighting like it was late March to grab a spot on the US roster to represent their country. Think about how much they would give to make the team? Think about the prestige of wearing the red, white and blue. Think about Dick Vitale on the air with Bryant Gumble or Pat O'Brien every night recapping what went down that day for the US.
Then, when it is all said and done, we can go back to beating up on each other during the winter.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski commented on Raleigh's 850 The Buzz to Adam Gold several months ago that one thing that would significantly improve the Olympics is that if basketball athletes only had one chance to be a part of it. I couldn't agree more. The mega stars of the NBA probably think they can make any Olympic team any time. And if they can not, do they really care? They have their money.
Youthfulness alone excels energy to new levels. Think about seeing guys diving for loose balls into the scores table, slapping the floor on defense, coming together from different schools who usually only wish to beat up on each other bonding for the common good and representation of our fine democracy.
Right now our country is at war. We have lost many heroes to a cause that many do not agree with. However, the young men fighting for us overseas would be the peers of the players we would fill the roster with. Ultimately the college athletes would have no more financial security or mega celebrity status than the fighting young soldiers that willingly lay down there life for our freedom. The soldiers could relate to our players, after all, they are their peers. Our soldiers could rally around our college players in the Olympics, just as we should be rallying around our troops right now. However, a 19 year old soldier may have a hard time relating to a three time NBA All Star who brings home 6.5 million dollars every year.
Additionally, as we have come to find, many of these pampered NBA athletes do not even want to waste there time in the Olympics. They come up with wonderful excuses like contract negotiations and security fears to cover up the fact that they would rather spend the summer playing X Box in their mansion with their friends than they would play more basketball, especially if it is not the type of pay day they receive when they suit up in the NBA. This point alone completely breaks the camels back. Ask any college athlete right now if they would like to compete in the Olympics and their eyes would light up like a 4th of July night. Any college player would beg for the chance, yet our spoiled and pampered NBA players do not even want it. Pathetic.
I long for the day when I can turn on the television and see players like Chris Paul, Rashad McCants, Juluis Hodge, and JJ Redick to name a few of the better ACC college players suit up and rehash the lines of the movie Miracle and give everything for the pride of representing this free land. Once every four years we could have March Madness in August.
At least the NBA was able to scrape together a decent enough team after getting so many rejections. For those players that passed on the chance to play in the Olympics I would like to ask them three simple questions. They are the same questions Herb Brooks asked his team when they first came together to practice in the movie "Miracle". What is your name? Where are you from? Who do you play for? Obviously, to many in the NBA, the answer to these questions does not even matter.