MANCHESTER: Kobe Bryant, the face of the US men’s team favoured to retain its gold medal in London, has slammed the NBA for considering an age-limit that would prevent many of the world’s top basketball players taking part in future Olympics.
NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke about the possibility of limiting participation in the Olympic basketball tournament to players aged 23 and under following the 2012 London Games.
“It’s a stupid idea,” Bryant, 33, told reporters ahead of Team USA’s Olympic friendly against Britain today. “It should be a [player’s] choice.”
NBA team owners are understood to be concerned about the greater potential for injuries and fatigue suffered by the top players while they represent their national teams during the league’s off season. But Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and a member of the US team that won gold at the 2008 Olympics, feels anything but the world’s best players is not acceptable when it comes to international competition.
“The Olympics is really about putting the best athletes out there to compete against the best. From a basketball standpoint, [an age limit] would lessen the Olympics.”
The prospect of having no NBA participation in the Olympics, just 20 years after they were first allowed into the competition at Barcelona, gained momentum after Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin was hurt during a US Olympic team practice.
Griffin’s injury, which occurred last week and required arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, came shortly after the NBA All-Star agreed to a $95 million contract with the Clippers. But Bryant smiled when asked if he could understand owners looking out to protect players from injury while participating in competition outside of the NBA.
“No, it’s to protect their investments. When you look at guys who are injured here, they have treatment around the clock. We have the best training staff, we have the professional coaches who are here monitoring us. If our owners or NBA coaches want to contact us and see how we’re doing, they can easily come to practice, they can easily talk to the training staff — as opposed to guys disappearing for the summer and coming back overweight.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2012.
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