The day after another overwhelming win by both the men’s and women’s basketball at the Rio Games, the director of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, had this to say about the level of competition at the Olympics:
“I’m not going to be making excuses for anyone about our [dominance],” Colangelo told the newspaper. “Someone said to me [after the game], one of the officials said to me, ‘You know next time you play, you ought to play with four.’ And I said, ‘No, maybe the other teams better get their act together and compete.’”
This offensive and insulting (to other nations) comment is a bit like a person taunting another with a disability that they can’t keep up (and it is worse – the person taunting CAUSED the disability in the first place!); I’d call it arrogance. I would say the USOC or IOC ought to demand an apology and some sort of official warning.
This brings me to the comment from Andrew Garcia to my original basketball article:
I’m sorry, but I completely disagree. ALL the basketball teams in the Olympics are entirely made up of professional basketball players, but we almost always win anyway. Why? Because our players are simply better. They are bigger, stronger, faster, and more athletic than any other country’s players. Every other country put forward their best players (most of whom play either in the NBA or the top Euroleagues) and we didn’t even play our best (Lebron, Curry, etc.) and we STILL won every game. The tournament isn’t rigged, it showed an accurate representation of which country has the best basketball players.
I am afraid that Andrew is right about the pro makeup of the teams that made the Games. I did a cursory review of the rosters of the twelve men’s teams and found the following:
- 45 NBA players
- 1 CBA player
- Approximately 95-96 pro players from other clubs
- And three or four true amateurs (two from US colleges and one from Argentina that did not play for a club and maybe one other unknown)
The team (other than the USA who had 12) with the most NBA players was, somewhat surprisingly to me, Spain with seven NBA players. There were three others with five: Australia, Brazil (a huge surprise to me) and France. (Nigeria had one NBA player and China had none but all were pro athletes.)
However, rejecting the implicit thesis that the Olympics should have pro athletes but asking: Is Andrew still right?
Sort of. We did have the best team. BUT, the use of pro athletes raises two equally disturbing questions:
- What pros did the also rans who did not win the qualifying tournaments have? I would suspect the answer is not as many if any as these teams. So even getting into the Games is difficult for non-pro laden teams (even if they are just club pros); that is even worse. (Hockey has the same problem even though there is a better distribution of NHL players throughout the world.) So the Olympics is shut out to other teams unless they have NBA quality players. There’s only a few hundred of those players at best available.
- Even with the distribution of NBA players it would only be possible for four teams to field an NBA starting lineup and only Spain could sub an NBA player for another one. The USA? No problem. All 12 are NBA players.
This is in addition to the question: Where do the amateur players go to play on the world stage? Maybe the World University Games? With all due respect, who watches that? I do not find it fair in any way.
Now if there is a World Cup of Basketball (and there is) have all the pros you want. But leave the Olympics alone. Let someone dream again.
I thank Andrew for his civility in disagreeing. Others want to rumble? In the meantime my advice to Jerry Colangelo is: Be humble and apologize for this demeaning and offensive remark – it is demeaning and offensive to the other nations who he knows cannot field a team like he can.
And finally, until every nation can have 12 NBA players for their Olympic basketball team, the present system is rigged – it favors the larger nations – it is sports imperialism – and I cannot support it. I’ll never give a dime to USOC or Olympic basketball but rather if I give I’d give to USA Fencing or USA Curling or some other non-pro US Olympic team.