NBA Superstars Rightfully Concerned Over Games In Athens

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el-vaquero-sports-editor/" class="creditline">RAMTIN JAMSHIDI
El Vaquero Sports Editor

There are many things other nations do better than the United States, for example: soccer, boy bands (Beatles), food, monarchies, math, peace, and films. But there is something that belongs to the States exclusively and that is basketball, or so we thought.

The world has caught up though, or at least closing in on the United States with breakneck speed. After a demoralizing sixth place finish by B-list players at the world championship in games in 2002, the United States team lost to Serbia, Argentina and Spain. Everyone pointed to the fact that the team assembled to represent the United States was weak and if the best players were to participate, the United States would dominate.

The best of the best of the NBA were tripping over each other to get a chance to play in the Olympics this August in Athens for redemption. This was going to be a powerhouse team that would crush opponents with ease.

But as the sting of the sixth place finish diminishes, the original superstars that were signed up to play this summer for redemption are dropping like leaves in autumn. Some for personal reasons: like Kobe Bryant (court case), Ray Allen (newborn baby), and Vince Carter (wedding). Others are rethinking their bid for safety concerns, amid terrorist bombings and the location. Looks like the world championship team of 2002 wasn’t so bad after all.

Many in the basketball community are a bit angered by this, because if players were originally planning on playing for their country, then dropping out now only strengthens the possibility of not bringing home the gold.

Some coaches, writers, players and fans are crying that these players have no pride in their country and are just selfish millionaires. In a climate where patriotism is as important a value as anything, everyone should represent their country if given the chance, right? Where is the sense in that? These players made no guarantee that they would play, and most just finished a marathon season that took a toll on their bodies. Why should they play in Athens if they are not fully healthy or willing.

These players are paid to play in the NBA not to represent their country in international play. The most sensible thing to do would be to put college players or put players from the NBA that would actually want to participate. Other nations train together for months prior to competition, the United States has weeks together at most.

Another concern is safety, players such as Tracy McGrady have jumped ship due to safety concerns. McGrady is the NBA’s leading scorer two years in a row and his dynamic play will be needed in the games, but his concerns are appropriate. Athens lies near the terrorist hot zones and players, officials, tourists and residents of Athens should all be concerned. The only way some players might be comfortable playing in Athens would be if they fortified the city, but after the movie ‘Troy’, not such a full prove plan. The players did not sign up to be part of a war zone, which may be what Athens will become. If terrorists were to strike, the NBA super millionares from America would be main objective. Who would want to be on top of that list?

Now that the problem of who will compete and who wont is taken care of, one question remains: does the U.S. team stand a chance against a veteran team. Without a team of super stars the U.S. team will surely be demolished you may say. The only real superstars remaining on the roster are Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson, but both players are anxious to play for their flag. With those two anchoring the national team, the rest should be able to complement them nicely. Recent national teams have just stocked themselves with the same type of player. If every player can score and wants to be the number one option, then why play defense? Because the rest of the world can shoot now. Having defensive specialists such as Ben Wallace and Ron Artest will surely help the team win, even if it is not the most glamarous.

Since the beginning of the original Dream Team in ’92, the name bestowed upon the most talented and experienced Olympic team the U.S has never lost an Olympic game.

The team looked like a group of Greek gods playing against the mere mortals. The United States has gone 24-0 and has won the last three golds since 1992, 1996 and 2000 since the original Dream Team. Even with replacement players, this year’s team will actually have to learn how to play team ball. The team of 2000 was nearly beaten, which shows that the process of putting a pack of superstars together and unleashing them on the world will not work anymore. In the second game of Olympic play, the U.S. won by only two points against Lithuania!
Maybe the superstars dropping out these Olympics will be a blessing to all basketball fans. The nation will have a team to actually cheer for instead of a team we demand world dominance from.