LONDON – If the movement that many believe to be afoot has any legs, Anthony Davis might be the only member of the current U.S. Men’s Senior National Team automatically eligible to participate in the 2016 Olympics.
There are rumblings that this might be the last Olympics for all NBA players if an 23-under age-limit rule goes into effect before the next Summer Games are held in Rio de Janeiro.
NBA Commissioner David Stern insists that there has been no “definitive” stance on the issue yet, but USA Basketball chairman and managing director Jerry Colangelo admitted Friday morning that he “senses there’s a change in the air, and when that takes place remains to be seen.”
Colangelo said that there have been discussions about the “23-under” rule, which FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, has implemented for the men in this summer’s Games, with the caveat that the each team can have three players over the age of 23. And there are plenty of discussions to come regarding FIBA and the rules that will impact Olympic basketball for years to come.
“If there is a change, then we’ll address the change and do what needs to be done,” Colangelo said. “We have a wealth of talent to select from at all ages now. Our junior teams are all gold medalists and they want to play for the senior team. So we’ll be able to pull from a lot of players.”
As for the age-limit rule, Colangelo has an appreciation for both sides of the argument having spent four decades at the forefront of the game in the NBA and beyond.
“There are pluses and minuses and pros and cons, a lot to be negotiated, a lot of parties to get to the table to agree and who knows how long that will take,” he said. “I just have to keep going forward and do whatever I have to do. Our job, my job and whoever follows me, and that’s to be as competitive as you can within the parameters you have to work with. And you can do that with great infrastructure. And we do. That’s the point. We have built the infrastructure and we should be able to handle any changes that come our way.”
If that change is anything like what’s already gone on here in men’s soccer, it won’t come without a price to the world’s most powerful programs.
Gold-medal favorite Spain lost to Japan, 1-0. Uruguay, another contender, rallied from an early deficit and survived a scare from United Arab Emirates to win its opener, 2-1. And powerhouse Brazil scored three times in the first 30 minutes against Egypt, and still had to hold on for a 3-2 win. Host-nation team Great Britain, making its first appearance at the Summer Games since 1960, finished in a 1-1 draw with Senegal.
Spain is making a bid to become the first nation to hold the World Cup, European and Olympic soccer titles simultaneously, but only has four members of the Euro 2012 championship team on its roster here and was dominated by Japan.
That’s the sort of parity that basketball has never enjoyed in the Olympics, with the U.S. team shooting for a 14th gold medal in its 18th Olympic competition.
Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are playing in their third straight Games, joining David Robinson as the only Americans on three Olympic basketball teams. And Anthony, 28, said he’s not ruling out a return trip in 2016, provided his age then doesn’t rule him out of competition.
“I don’t like that rule,” he said. “But I’m just one guy … after this one, we’ll see. I love Brazil. I really wouldn’t want to miss that trip. If I decided I wanted to come back in 2016 I wouldn’t be able to get my fourth Olympics. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t like that rule.”
Kobe Bryant was defiant in his stance on the 23-under rule, calling it a “stupid idea” last week.
Colangelo was much more diplomatic, of course, but he let this current team’s rock star status here illustrate his point.
“These guys are some of the most recognizable athletes in the world,” he said. “As big as they are in the states, when they are elsewhere in the world they are kind of rocks stars because the fans and the people who love the game have a chance to get up close to them and be in their company.
“Look, I’m a builder, and I love what ‘s happened in basketball the last four decades, basically my whole life in basketball. So I want to continue to build it. I don’t want to see anything take it away. And I do know this, the two hottest tickets in town are track and field and basketball. That’s says something to me.”