x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The NBA is taking a risk with its basketball stars

Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban has a plan to take the world's best basketball players out of the Olympics by staging an NBA-sanctioned international tournament.

The LA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was just one of a host of NBA superstars in the United States team that won gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. He is pictured beating Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro
The LA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was just one of a host of NBA superstars in the United States team that won gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. He is pictured beating Spain’s Juan Carlos Navarro

What if the NBA controlled international basketball?

Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner, is not happy that the NBA lends its players for the Olympic Games and other international events for free and he wants to do something about it.

"We take all the risk and get none of the upside," Cuban said.

Cuban says the NBA grooms players, pays them exorbitant sums of money and then takes the risk of injury when players are called to play for their national teams in the Olympics and events like the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Championships.

And the NBA gets nothing except some international exposure.

Since David Stern, the commissioner, has serious international ambitions for the NBA, Cuban's rant looks to have fallen on deaf ears. But there is a certain logic to his argument.

Two years ago, he wanted the NBA to adopt the same proposal European football leaders suggested - limiting players available to the Olympics to those under the age of 21. Currently, they have an Under 23 agreement, with an additional three older players. That suggestion went nowhere.

Cuban's latest idea is for the NBA to buy out the national basketball sanctioning bodies and lure the best basketball players in the world away from the Olympics and Fiba events and stage their own tournament.

Cuban said he would tell other basketball nations: "We'll split it with all of you. And we'll sell the television rights. And we'll own it."

NBC, the US rights-holder to the Olympics, has a contract with the International Olympics Committee to broadcast the 2010 winter and 2012 summer Olympics for US$2.2 billion (Dh8.08bn), the IOC's largest source of revenue.

"That money goes into the pocket of the Olympics," Cuban said.

"They give out little morsels to the different national teams for all the different sports. Basketball is one of the biggest draws … Rather than us giving up players ... we'll create the NBA International Basketball Tournament and make them part of it and create a system that makes the NBA money."

NBA players also compete in the Fiba World Championships, which does not make money. "Which is even dumber because no-one even watches it," Cuban said. "We give them players and no one even cares."

 

sports@thenational.ae