NBA commissioner David Stern has been vague on the league’s motivation for pushing to enter an under-23 team for future Olympics and shifting the sport’s biggest stars to participation in the world championships, but the change of course is largely motivated by financial benefits, league and international sources told Yahoo! Sports.
For months, the NBA has been discussing an end to the Olympic basketball Dream Team movement and delivering its superstars to a proposed rebranding of the world championships called "The World Cup of Basketball."
For the use of its most marketable players, the league office and many NBA owners are determined to create a financial partnership with FIBA for a World Cup that would allow the NBA to significantly share in the windfall of revenues.
"The owners would be a lot more comfortable letting star players play internationally if they’re sharing in the revenue," one league source told Yahoo! Sports.
As constituted now, the International Olympic Committee has control of the Olympic basketball tournament and most of the revenue it generates.
Stern says the NBA will take time to deliberate how it will proceed in the future, but multiple league and international sources insist there’s little chance the league will ever send its best players to the Summer Olympics beyond the 2012 London Games. The NBA has long wanted to best protect its financial investments in players by better controlling the medical and training staffs used in international competition.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told Yahoo! Sports he isn’t aware of the NBA’s specific intentions in possibly moving its star players to the rebranded World Cup, but says he has lobbied for much more complete control of the tournament. He sees no reason to partner with FIBA or anyone else. He wants the NBA to own, operate and profit on a global tournament using the league’s stars.
"The question is: Why would we partner with a current tournament rather than start our own?" Cuban said. "If done correctly, it can be NBA-owned and operated and have the potential to be just as large as the World Cup of soccer. That is a product, in my opinion, we want to own, not share.
“I don’t know what the NBA plan is, but the above is what I will be pushing for."
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The NBA started the Dream Team concept in 1992, insisting it was at the behest of the rest of the world’s desire to compete against the NBA’s best players. As much as anything, it was a reaction to USA Basketball failing to win a gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Games, and an understanding that America’s college players could no longer compete with professionals around the world.
"I do know that USA Basketball should have no say in the matter," Cuban said. "It’s completely separate from the NBA. They are a different financial entity. They would just be another country that could play in our tournament. Just like FIFA does the World Cup, the NBA could do a global tournament.
"There’s no more reason to deal with USA Basketball than there is to work with the Peruvian Basketball or Kazakhstan Basketball Committee."