David Stern wants to restrict Olympics to 23-and-under players

By Royce Young | NBA writer
Olympic basketball might be changing yet again. At least if David Stern has his way.

Speaking on ESPN Radio, Stern said he would be in favor of making a new age restriction on who can participate in the basketball tournament.

"My own view is that post-London, we should be thinking about even what soccer does and make it 23 and under," Stern said Monday.

Stern said the league doesn't try and encourage players to play though.

“No, we stay out of it," he said. "The problem is that it's so [ingrained] into the international players that they just always play. And so we were contemplating, even back in the day when we thought we maybe wouldn't allow NBA players to go, that would have deprived us of Yao Ming because the Chinese government never would have let him come to play (in the NBA). And the international players were going anyway. So then it would apply only to American players? So we found ourselves in a bit of an interesting dilemma with the whole thing.”

Stern made sure to say that the United States' international dominance isn't what makes him feel that way saying he doesn't have "a problem with Americans losing in the Olympics. ... We don't have to win everything for it to be great.”

NBA stars were first allowed to participate in the Olympics in 1992, forming the "Dream Team" that steamrolled through en route to winning gold. The United States has won gold every four years except for 2004, when it placed third in Sydney.

Team USA is the favorite this summer to win gold with stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul leading the team. Other countries have built up strong rosters such as Spain, Argentina and France with NBA players, but the United States is the only country that has a team entirely made up of NBA players.

So I assume the idea behind restricted age would be to make the tournament more competitive. I guess.

If the Olympics were restricted to 23-and-under, players like Durant, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose (if healthy), Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love would still be eligible. For fun, here's what I imagine Team USA might look like if the rules restricted it to 23 or under:

PG: Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, John Wall
SG: James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry
SF: Kevin Durant, Thaddeus Young
PF: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin
C: Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins

Or something like that. So it's not like Team USA wouldn't still be strong. There's more young talent in the league than ever, and the United States would certainly be just fine.

But I disagree with Stern because don't you want the best of the best representing each country? Why restrict the age? The Olympics are the World Cup equivalent for basketball, meaning it's the top international hoops prize. The World Cup features the top soccer players in the world, so why should basketball not? Unless this is an effort to maybe turn the focus to the World Championships in basketball and make it the stronger tournament or something.

I don't have a problem with it being more competitive at all, but it's not the United States' fault if it just so happens to be terrific at basketball. Spain isn't apologizing for soccer dominance or Canada for its hockey. Besides, it's not a given at all that Team USA is going to win in London. There are a number of quality teams and with the injuries already sustained for the U.S., winning won't be easy.
 
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