The greed of the NBA lockout is still evident in USA Basketball controversy

Blake Griffin‘s recent knee injury at a Team USA scrimmage is causing people to talk again about whether or not NBA basketball players should be paid for playing on the National Team.

To refresh your memory, in April 2011, Dwayne Wade said,

“It’s a lot of things you do for the Olympics — a lot of jerseys you sell. We play the whole summer. I do think guys should be compensated. […] Unfortunately, it’s not there.

“The biggest thing is now you get no rest. So you go to the end of the season, (Team USA) training camp is two weeks later. You’re giving up a lot to do it. It’s something you want to do. But it’s taxing on your body. You’re not playing for the dollar. But it would be nice if you would get compensated.”

In the year prior to making that statement, Dwayne Wade made $26.2 million in salary and endorsements.

It’s a good thing I’m not making $26.2 million a year, because apparently it is pretty hard to squeak by on that and give time to worthy causes like coaching youth basketball or playing for your country’s national team.

Of course Wade’s statement was met with a ton of criticism, particularly because it came at the beginning of the NBA lockout at a time when the basketball world was revolted at the greed being displayed at the time by owners and players at the expense of their fans.

Dwayne Wade’s justification for paying NBA players on the USA National Team is because they get no rest in the off season.

How does playing for pay rest a player more than playing for free?

What Dwayne Wade and those who think like him conveniently forget is that just being on the Olympic team, like being on the NBA All-star team, gives a player fantastic clout in fans’ eyes, making them a bigger draw, resulting in increased ticket sales, TV viewership, advertising revenue, endorsements, sneakers sales, jerseys, etc.

In other words, NBA players ARE being paid for being on the national team!

Then, a year later Mark Cuban resurrected the topic, this time saying NBA ownership should get paid for players’ participation on Team USA. On April of 2012, Mark Cuban said,

“If you look up stupid in the dictionary, you see a picture of the USA Dream Team playing for free for corporate America so the U.S. Olympic Committee can make millions of dollars. “

Cuban went on to point out that USA Olympics is a corporation making money from the NBA’s assets, and the NBA isn’t profiting from it.

I suspect that Mark Cuban is smart enough to know that getting a check for Dirk to play for the German national team doesn’t protect Dirk from injury. Obviously, what Cuban really wants is to make it cost prohibitive for Dirk to play for anyone but him. Cuban wants to own his players like a building.

Players are definitely business assets, but not in the sense that Cuban wants them to be. Players aren’t plant and machinery, they are people. When you sign a player, you get a person — his upside and his downside. It’s just part of the package.

Sign a Ron Artest, you might get a defensive juggernaut, or you might get a brawl.

Sign a Greg Oden, you might get a dominate center, or you might get a guy who is always injured in the NBA, just as he was in college.

Sign a Dirk Nowitzki and you get a great NBA player who is so great he will also be called upon to play for his country. It’s just part of the package, and owners know those risks when they acquired their “asset.”

Again, just like having an NBA All-Star on your roster increases your revenue, having an Olympic Gold Medalist does as well. Consequently, team ownership gets compensated for their players involvement in international competition, albeit indirectly.

Besides, if Mark Cuban really cared so much about “protecting his assets” then why did he piss away $1.7 million in fines in 5 years for his tantrums in his first years as an NBA owner? Who knows what that figure adds up to today.

Has everyone forgotten about the NBA lockout already?

The one thing fans should have learned from the lockout is that NBA players and owners are unreasonably greedy and would say anything to get their way.

Players get injured, whether or not they are on the National Team.

Kyrie Irving just broke his hand in practice. Michael Jordan cut his finger in the off season trying to cut a cigar. Last summer Carlos Boozer got injured falling down stairs.

Of course, NBA players stand a better chance at getting injured in international competition than walking down stairs, but siphoning money away from USA Olympics to pay billionaires in the NBA doesn’t lessen their possibility of injury. All it does is give even more money to a group of people who can’t seem to appreciate what they have already.

That is the truth, even if a billionaire says otherwise.

People are entirely too impressed with money. Mark Cuban is just another guy with an opinion, not some genius basketball guru.

In fact, Mark Cuban isn’t even a genius BUSINESS guru.

Cuban became an overnight billionaire in April of 1999 when Yahoo! bought broadcast.com for $5.7 billion in Yahoo stock. The transaction was literally the laughing stock of silicon valley.

Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban’s college roommate, gave Cuban a job at broadcast.com; Cuban didn’t even have to compete for his employment, much less his billion dollars.

At broadcast.com, Cuban, Wagner and 98 other employees were given stock options as part of their salary, so when Yahoo! bought broadcast.com, they became Yahoo! shareholders. Wagner and Cuban quickly cashed out their shares, so 18 months after Cuban was hired at broadcast.com, Cuban was a billionaire.

There was no shrewd business acumen required on Cuban’s part, no persistence through adversity.

Mark Cuban didn’t build some amazing company like Bill Gates’s Microsoft, or Steve Jobs‘s Apple; Cuban was just lucky enough to have the right roommate in college.

In fact, broadcast.com was all hype and no substance, and months after the purchase, Yahoo! realized it and eventually shut it down. Yahoo! paid $5.7 billion for nothing. Broadcast.com didn’t even exist two years after it was purchased.

Yes, USA Olympics makes money off of NBA assets, but paying players or owners doesn’t protect players from injury, so stop with the smoke screen already.

In 1992, USA basketball decided to stop using amateurs and start using NBA players. This was a very deliberate decision with overwhelming national support.

Now, 20 years later, a small group of influential men, the very same people who blatantly and greedily walked over the top of their fans in the NBA lockout, want us to look past their obvious conflict of interest in this matter, disregard the overwhelming national support for NBA players in USA basketball, and support their ludicrous position.

For another opinion on this matter, check out what Kobe Bryant had to say:

“I think that’s the wrong way to look at things. If I’m an owner, I would want my player to play (internationally) because I understand that they’re going to be playing anyway, going to be playing pickup basketball in the summertime, and I’m not going to be able to know where they are. They could be playing against a bunch of bums — no, really — guys that feel like they have something to prove and all of a sudden, a (star player) goes to the rim and a guy takes them out and now he’s hurt.”
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“Here you’re playing against the best guys, you have treatment around the clock, your (NBA) coaching staff can always come sit in the stands and view practice. To me, playing on an Olympic basketball team is actually better if you’re an owner.”

Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo sees it like Kobe and I do as well.

“I don’t want to change anything because I like what we have,” Colangelo told the Times earlier this month. “We take care of our players and I think we do the right things.

Chris Paul weighs in with the best comments of all though:

“I personally would like for it to be your own decision, because playing in an Olympics — this will be my second — is the greatest experience of my life.
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“If you look at the track record for it, I can honestly say my best season in the NBA statistically was the 2008-09 season, which was after my first Olympics.”
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You see guys, when they come back from playing on a team like this, they go into the new season with the ultimate confidence. We talk during the season, we talk about how tired we’re going to be in the summer, but as soon as we all get out to Vegas, we’re excited. We’re ready to go — it’s on.”

“It’s better than being at home just working out and playing ball. You get to play against the best players in the world.”

The Olympics is THE showcase for the best athletes in the world, and the best athletes should be there… even if a billionaire like Mark Cuban thinks otherwise, or that he should be profiting more from it.

  1. DismayedDismayed08-14-2012

    The Olympics is a hybrid of Nationalism and Corporatism. Just add in the backside stories to capture the female audience. Everyone is making a ton of money on the events, so I can hardly blame Wade for wanting a bigger cut. This is, after all, America. Money is all that matters.

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