All the last few days, former players and even President Obama have lambasted Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant for saying this year’s Team USA could defeat the 1992 Dream Team. Bryant took it with his chin up. Now, he’s delivering blows.
His target? NBA commissioner David Stern, who tossed around the idea of the NBA’s involvement in Olympic basketball be restricted to players 23 and under. Now, why did he go there?
“It’s a stupid idea,” Bryant told reporters in England at the reception to welcome Team USA to Manchester in advance of Thursday night’s exhibition game here against Team Great Britain. “It should be a (player’s) choice.”
Bryant said he and his Olympic cohorts have discussed Stern’s notion in the last two weeks. And “
Our discussion is this: Basically, it’s just a dumb idea and we (discuss) it that way. We just discuss it like that (and) kind of voice our opinions through you (media) guys.”
And he was not finished. He said playing in the Olympics is an honor and benefit to the player, not a detriment. Bryant said to the Los Angeles Times: “I think that’s the wrong way to look at things. If I’m an owner, I would want my player to play (internationally) because I understand that they’re going to be playing anyway, going to be playing pickup basketball in the summertime, and I’m not going to be able to know where they are. They could be playing against a bunch of bums — no, really — guys that feel like they have something to prove and all of a sudden, a (star player) goes to the rim and a guy takes (him) out and now he’s hurt.
“Here, you’re playing against the best guys, you have treatment around the clock, your (NBA) coaching staff can always come sit in the stands and view practice. To me, playing on an Olympic basketball team is actually better if you’re an owner.”
The change Stern favors is switching to a system similar to that used in men’s Olympic soccer — which is a 23-and-under competition with three overage players allowed per country — and allowing all NBA players to remain eligible for the quadrennial FIBA World Championship. That competition would be renamed the World Cup of Basketball in 2014 and, if eligibility changes also are made, theoretically sets up NBA owners to finally earn a share of revenues in return for allowing their top players to participate. At present, NBA teams get no revenue from the Olympic basketball tournament