NBA commissioner David Sterns grand idea to put an age cap of 23 on the Team USA men’s basketball players was shot down by first by Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and now by FIBA chief Patrick Baumann.
He said the governing body would not suggest an age limit of 23 for the 2016 Olympics as suggested by Stern and the NBA.
“The NBA has come up with the idea to go with under 23 and at the same time to promote younger athletes,” Baumann said, “and also to make a (distinction) between the (new) World Cup and the Olympic Games (by making only the World Cup open to NBA Players of all ages).
“From FIBA’s perspective, we understand the perspective from USA Basketball and the NBA. I’m not sure (we) necessarily have the same idea, but we understand the owners’ concerns.”
Bryant called Stern’s idea “stupid” two weeks ago and his London Olympic teammates agreed with him, saying it should be a player’s choice.
Here’s the rub: The NBA’s popularity has grown around the world in part because of the 1992 Dream Team and subsequent Olympic teams featuring the biggest names and brightest stars. But the owners insist to capitalize on this expansive reach, they have to bring in a select team of younger players.
This has led to a push from owners across the league, most notably the Dallas Mavericks’ Mark Cuban, to switch to a system similar to the one used by men’s Olympic soccer.
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The new system would impose an age limit of 23 for the Olympic team while allowing all NBA players to remain eligible for the quadrennial FIBA World Championship. In 2014 the competition will be renamed the World Cup of Basketball, and unlike the Olympics NBA teams would be able to benefit financially from allowing their star players to participate.
According to ESPN.com, NBA owners believe the age eligibility rule would raise the anticipation surrounding the World Cup, thus enhancing the chances that NBA teams would see financial benefits from such a change.
Despite acknowledging the lack of financial earnings by participating in the Olympics, Baumann isn’t ready to make the change as quickly as NBA owners.
“It would be premature right now to make any changes in terms of the quality of basketball at the Olympic Games.”