David Stern wants the International Olympic Committee to establish an age limit on Olympic men's basketball players.
The claim -- by some -- is that doing so would increase competition in the Games and keep the U.S. from dominating the way it has since NBA players were allowed to compete (the 2004 Games notwithstanding, of course).
The reality is that Stern and the NBA's team owners want the age limit put in place so they can start making big dough off the FIBA World Cup event, which would have no age limits on players and would become, as SI.com's Ian Thomsen put it, "the preeminent international basketball event every four years."
In essence, Stern and the NBA's owners took a hard look at the model for men's soccer in the Olympics and the World Cup, and they saw dollar signs. Men's soccer has an age limit of 23 -- same as what Stern's proposing for hoops -- and it has a wildly popular FIFA World Cup every four years that is more important to many soccer fans than the Olympics.
More important to team owners is that World Cup events -- be them basketball or soccer -- offer profitability that the Olympic games do not. So of course Stern and his cohorts are interested in pursuing a soccer-style model.
The good news here is, according to Thomsen, we aren't likely to see an age limit imposed for the 2016 Games in Rio, and if that's true, this issue wouldn't be able to go into effect until 2020.
There may be positives to imposing an age limit on Olympic men's basketball players, and increased competition would be nice, particularly after we've seen the U.S. dominate in yawn-inducing fashion at the past two games (although the gold-medal matches have at least been interesting). But whatever positives exist in this idea are dwarfed by the one, big negative, as far as I'm concerned -- the Olympic Games should include each country's best possible competitors, be they 19 or 49 (that goes for you, too, soccer).
At the very least, establishing an age limit in any Olympic sport so that rich guys can find ways to get richer off non-Olympic events is not something fans of the game should support.
Adam Sparks has followed the Portland Trail Blazers since the early 1980s, and has written about the team and the NBA as a freelancer since 2009.
- Sports & Recreation
- David Stern