Thursday, April 12, 2012

Should NBA basketball Olympians be paid?

The United States won a bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Shortly after the Games, the National Basketball Association approached FIBA (the Federation Basketball Association) and the two sides agreed NBA players would be welcome to represent their countries at the Olympic Games. The Dream Team was born, the 1992 U.S. Olympic Basketball team that featured Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, among others. The cavalcade of talent easily won the gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The 1992 American Olympic Basketball team also generated tens of millions of dollars for USA Basketball through the sale of replica uniforms and other “Dream Team” related merchandise. The entire Dream Team, with the exception of Christian Laettner, has been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as individuals. The Dream Team as a group, was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2010. The players didn’t have a choice when it came to the selling of merchandise bearing their likeness.

Several members of the 1992 Dream Team (Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson) covered up the Reebok logos on their uniforms during the medal ceremonies with American flags. Jordan was then, as he is now, closely linked to Nike. However, the players wanted to play for the red, white and blue. They were less concerned about the selling of merchandise and more focused on bringing basketball glory back to the USA.

The 2012 London Olympics are set to begin in less than 100 days. . Two current NBA players who have represented the United States at an Olympic Games, are less than enamored when it comes to giving up their marketing rights..

"First of all, it’s an honor to play in the Olympics, but there are a lot of things you do for the Olympics. A lot of jerseys you sell. There are a lot of things you do. We play the whole summer," Dwayne Wade told ESPN. "I do think guys should be compensated, just like I think college players should be compensated as well. Unfortunately, it's not that, but I think it should be something for it.''

USA Basketball was organized in 1974 and known as the Amateur Basketball Association of the United States of America (ABAUSA). The name change to USA Basketball occurred Oct. 12, 1989, shortly after FIBA modified its rules to allow professional basketball players to participate in international competitions. USA Basketball then admitted the NBA as an active member and made the change.

USA Basketball is responsible for putting together national teams for all international basketball competitions – everything from the Olympic Games to the World Junior Basketball Championships. The budget for those teams includes sponsorship revenues and…..the millions of dollars the sale of Olympic men’s team replica uniforms generate.

Ray Allen has made more than $100 million during his NBA career. Ray Allen was a member of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games American team.

"You talk about the patriotism that guys should want to play for, but you (need to) find a way to entice the guys," Allen said. "It's not the easiest thing in the world if you play deep in the playoffs and then you get two, three weeks off and then you start training again to play more basketball where it requires you to be away from home and in another country. It's fun, but your body does need a break.

"Everybody says, 'Play for your country.' But (NBA players are) commodities, your businesses. You think about it, you do camps in the summer; you have various opportunities to make money. When you go overseas and play basketball, you lose those opportunities, what you may make… If I'm an accountant and I get outsourced by my firm, I'm going to make some money somewhere else."

Allen first represented the United States at the 1995 World Student Games. The men’s basketball team bills at the 1995 Fukuoka Games were paid by USA Basketball in part from revenues generated by the 1992 Dream Team.

The revenue generated by the Olympic “Dream Teams” doesn’t go to any one individual – it nurtures the growth of basketball in the United States.
The U.S. Olympic Committee does provide every American with $25,000 for winning a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver and $10,000 for a bronze. Allen is not expected to be a part of the 2012 USA Men’s Olympic Basketball Team.

"If it's licensing," Allen told Fox Sports. "(The players) are wearing jerseys and (others, but not the players, are) making money off it. Something (should be done) just to say to the guys, 'Hey, you guys are spending this much time, 40 days, playing basketball, we're paying for some type service that you provide, that you're getting some kind of kickback'… I know that you sell unlimited jerseys so I think the players should get some piece of that."

Allen is wrong – the money USA Basketball generates from the sale of the jerseys isn’t going to any individuals. Some of that money does offset the day-to-day operational costs for USA Basketball, but most of the money fosters the development of basketball.

Allen is correct when he talks about the major commitment it is to play for your country’s national team. The NBA season (when there isn’t a lockout) lasts six months, two more months if an NBA team goes to the NBA Finals.

LeBron James, a member of the 2004 and 2008 United States Olympic teams, will be a member of the 2012 London team. James also plans on leading the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals. If James and the Heat make it to the NBA Finals, James won’t have a break once the NBA Finals end in late June.

"I love representing my country, man," James said in an ESPN report. "I've done it since 2004 and I'm looking forward to doing it in London. As far as (pay), I don't know, man. It doesn't
matter. I'm happy to be a part of the team, to be selected again."

The United States is blessed with an abundance of basketball talent. The season may be too long for Dwayne Wade, but it isn’t too long for LeBron James and Chris Bosh. The trio all play for the Miami Heat. They’re also heading to London. James is on record and Bosh has no issues with how long their seasons last. If Wade has an issue, he could have told USA Basketball he wouldn’t continue as a member of the national team. No one would have thought less of Wade. He’s represented the United States at two Olympic Games – he’s done his part. If he’s looking for another dollar or two, at the expense of USA Basketball being able to pay their bills, Wade should stay home.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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