Let Them Play

Mark Cuban is a brilliant owner who has done everything in his power to see his franchise win a championship. No one can question or doubt his dedication to the Dallas Mavericks and his continuing drive to make the team successful at all costs. In 2011 his team, and the city of Dallas, realized that goal. However, when it comes to international play, Cuban, a staunch opponent, and this is where he is wrong.

Cuban, like every owner or general manager has the right to be worried about the players, who represent their teams in the NBA, getting injured or forced into heavy minutes in off season play. They have every right to be concerned. That is because they treat their players like a commodity.

Dirk Nowitzki is the end-all and be-all of basketball in Germany. He always will be. Is it so wrong for him to want to represent his team in international or Olympic play? No. Cuban thinks it is. Cuban pays him the money, Cuban is invested in him.

Unlike the Facebook IPO, NBA players actually pay dividends, unless their name is Eddy Curry or Jerome James. If I were a rich man I could completely sympathize with Cuban’s, and other owner’s, sentiment. However, I am not rich. I am a regular citizen.

What owners seem to neglect is that NBA players represent a whole swath of nations, not just a team somewhere in the United States or Toronto. This is an international game and David Stern will readily point that out.

Greg Stiemsma will be a member of Team USA this summer. Only as a member of the USA Select team, so please feel free to exhale. That is no slight to Stiemsma, who has played valuable, albeit small, minutes for the Celtics this post season. But is that who should represent the United States in the Olympics? No.

It is foolish to think that the U.S. will not and should not send its best and brightest basketball minds and players out into the international arena. The same holds true in virtually every other arena, athletic or academic. Why should we, as a nation, limit our possibilities? Why should we limit our gains? Our pride? There should be no limit to what we, and our players, can accomplish on the world’s stage.

London is an opportunity, a great one, as all the Olympic games are. It is where the best athletes in the the world compete. Yet, we should only send second or third tier quality. Yes, that makes sense. Hamper our players and our citizens. Why should we complete at the zenith of international sport. Sucks to your ass-mar!

Team USA might be depleted, and that is being generous at this point, but we, as a nation, must put forth the best players we have available. Of course much of this is predicated on whether they want to compete or not. However, many, especially the young stars of the NBA, want to. They are not commodities. They are men and as men they want to represent their country.

In the long list of gender double standards, the women who will represent the United States in the 2012 London Olympics are not placed on the same pedestal as the men. Why are no owners or, for that matter, college coaches up in arms that their players have the rare opportunity to compete on an international stage? Why are the men so cherished as a commodity?

The stage of international competition is what brings our divided country together. We, as citizens, voter, residents, tax payers deserve to see our best athletes compete. One person, or many, unites us all as they vie to be the best in the world.

I’m sorry, Mark, when it comes to grown men, they are not a commodity. Sure they are specialized and adept at their sport but the are still human, yet you do not own them. I understand wanting to get the most out of your investment but even when you have full control over a player it is risky (see: Odom, Lamar). I generally agree with your positions, Mark, especially your take on Bill Simmons, but when it comes to international completion, let your players compete if they want to. They have a higher calling than just playing for the Mavericks, or any team for that matter. Country comes first, as children we learned that long ago. Nationalism may be a dated concept but it is still a source of pride, no matter the outlet.

International competition works best when the elite athletes of a country are allowed to compete. What else is the point? Should we send high school track stars to race against Usain Bolt? No.

Let them compete. Let the top athletes compete. Bragging rights are childish but to hamper the dreams of someone wanting to represent their country is downright petty. Insure them if you must, unlike Amar’e Stoudemire, but protect your assets if that is what truly drives you. If they get hurt, fine. Write it off as a temporary loss but do not, for one second, limit a person’s potential to compete for their country on the most prestigious sporting stage the world has to offer. To do otherwise is only selfish.

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Filed under NBA at Large, Team USA

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