The world’s best basketball team is not the LA Lakers. Neither is the Spurs. Officially, the world’s best basketball team is not even American.
The best team on this globe is officially the national team of Yugoslavia, which won the last World Basketball Championship tournament in 2002 and can proudly call itself world champions.
The silver medal went to Argentina, Germany finished third (cheers to that).
Searching for the United States, home of the best basketball players ever? They finished sixth, behind New Zealand and Spain.
Even if they date from two years ago, it’s not old news. Trying to set up a new ‘Dream Team’ for the Olympics in Athens this year, U.S. coach Larry Brown faces the powerful opposition of NBA managers, led by the eccentric Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
They do not want to let their players play for their nation and risk injuries.
Is a world title of no worth anymore? Does the honor and pride of winning a title for your country vanish in the bright twinkling NBA championship ring? The NBA champions call themselves “ World Champions,” but can this be decided, for example, between just Los Angeles and New Jersey? Should not a world championship be decided between nations rather than between cities?
Maybe Cuban has the latest Disney movie “Miracle”on his mind. In this film, a team of college hockey players win the gold medal for the United States at the 1980 Olympics. The movie is based on facts and really entertaining and patriotic, but it is still a movie – a Disney movie.
Against the strong competition in today’s international basketball with many great international players in and maybe even more outside the NBA, some college students will hardly be worthy representatives of the world’s strongest basketball nation at the Olympics in Athens 2004.
And how can a professional athlete reject playing for his country in his free time during the NBA summer break? To rehabilitate and prepare for the next season? Who should he be more committed to? To the NBA, who hired him for at the most about four years? Or to the country, which’s citizenship and national pride he has for the lifetime?
Cuban has a point saying that he is the one paying the players’ insurance, so he has the right to decide if they should be a part of the Olympic games. But what does he think they will do at home? Does he expect Michael Finley to spend the whole break on the couch or in the gym? Finley is a basketball player and he will do what players do, even over the break. He will play basketball with friends in the gym or out on the streets, without preparational training or rehabilitation and massages after the game. So why not send him to Athens to play in the best environment an athlete can enjoy: the Olympics. Train with the best, trained by the best, facing the best, playing the best. Sound like an excellent season preparation to me…
But does a Shaquille O’Neal, who earns about $ 250,000 per NBA game, still hunger for challenges and want to represent the USA in Athens? If he doesn’t, he should stay where he is, in L.A.,fighting for another ring on his finger instead of his first medal around his neck, for which millions of athletes nation- and worldwide would sacrifice both legs.
Maybe, if Shaq won’t play and the USA will not send another ‘Dream Team,’ it opens the door for other nations to go for gold.
Maybe even Germany…
Max Zänker, an international student, is LV Life editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.