Ever since Beijing passed the Olympic torch to London in 2008, Team Great Britain has had high hopes for its basketball team. As host nation and with several British and British-American NBA players on the roster, they have entertained hopes of making it to the medal rounds and showing that basketball is becoming one of the major team sports in the UK.
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That dream hasn't worked out quite as planned. Byron Mullens, a not-so-great big man for the Charlotte Bobcats whose mother is English, has backed out of the games with a toe injury. Chicago Bulls All-Star Luol Deng, while as committed to the team as ever, is nursing various ailments, including a wrist injury that arguably needs surgery, though he's not likely to get it.
Britain has lost a second NBA player for the men's basketball tournament at the Olympic Games after Ben Gordon failed to link up with the squad at its training camp in the United States.
Spice says ''It's really disappointing as he's a world-class player who would have made a huge difference.''
It's not yet clear why the Bobcats — literally the worst team ever — would be so much worthier of Gordon's time than the Pistons, but apparently the change of team was enough to convince Gordon to commit himself to his employer this offseason. That loss will hurt Great Britain quite a bit — as Spice (who as far as I know is not related to Sporty Spice) notes, he's had success at the highest levels of the sport and was to be counted on as an important scorer for his country.
[ Photos: Classic Dream Team images ]
Then again, this isn't exactly Gordon's country. He was born in London, yes, but his parents are Jamaican and moved to New York soon after he was born. Gordon is eligible to play for Great Britain because of where he happened to be born, but he identifies as American. If he were good enough to play for Team USA, he'd be suiting up for them this summer.
And therein lies the issue for Great Britain Basketball, or really any international team that relies on naturalized citizens or dual citizens to fill out the roster. In most cases, playing for your country is on honor, one where the emotional and personal benefit overshadows any tangible gains. Luol Deng, a native of the Sudan who found a permanent home in England after a harrowing period of civil war, has committed himself to the national team because he feels a strong connection to England. Gordon, however, has been involved with Team Great Britain because they were an available option. When new factors complicated his choice, he opted against to playing in the Olympics. Deciding between club and country is a tough issue for some players, but Gordon didn't have to think that hard.
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