It's fairly common knowledge that Deron Williams and Dwight Howard chatted about playing together stateside while they were at the 2008 Olympics in Bejing. We also know that this isn't the first time NBA players have explored the possibilities of moving to a singular destination.
Today's most prominent "Big Three" (Lebron, DWade and Chris Bosh) apparently had similar discussions around the same time and place.
Syndicated columnist Jason Lloyd has a very dark take on this. Apparently he feels that the Olympics are literally ruining the NBA.
"The formation of the NBA's superpower teams can inevitably be traced back to the Olympics, where superstars from across the league gather in hotels for about a month—with plenty of down time involved to hatch these plans of someday playing together on the same team."
Of course, the Heat's super trio wasn't the first triumvirate in the modern era. It wasn't long ago Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett headed to Boston to join Paul Pierce. But Lloyd continues:
"Somewhere between Team USA's gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the Redeem Team's march to gold in '08, the culture inside the NBA began to change. Players were no longer adversaries, they were merely business associates forced to play in different cities—for the time being."
Well, my first instinct of course was to start pulling up Olympic team rosters to verify if Allen, Pierce and Garnett had played together and had such an opportunity for collusion. Then the enormity of how ludicrous this whole premise is hit me like a ton of bricks.
Lloyd colorfully describes the good old days when the Dream Team was made up of players who didn't like each other but did their best to avoid being shown up and losing their street cred. He goes on to say that the culture changed without much mention as to how or why, other than attributing the transformation to Olympic teammates having a month to hang out together and talk amongst themselves.
So the bottom line is, is the NBA really ruined and did the Olympics cause it?
First of all, a "Big Three" is not really new and it is not a unilateral game-changer. The concept just got a lot of publicity with the Celtics and then a lot of bad publicity more recently with the Heat. That is largely because of the distasteful spectacle put on in Miami when that deal was done, along with the multitude of negativity regarding Lebron's decision to leave Cleveland.
When Magic and Bird were duking it out in the 80's, they had practically entire teams comprised of All-Stars and former All-Stars.
The San Antonio Spurs have a Big Three, but if memory serves me correctly they weren't necessarily staying at the same hotel during the Olympics.
The 2010-2011 champion was the Dallas Mavericks, and they won the title with only one All-Star reserve on the roster. And other teams challenge the premise as well.
So I'm going to stick my neck out here and say the NBA isn't ruined just yet. When Elton John and Billy Joel toured together, no one seemed disturbed that these two superstars were joining up; it sure as heck wasn't because of the Olympics...but is it different in sports and more specifically, if the players formulate the plan?
If the NBA has indeed been ruined, hypothetically, are the Olympics to blame? And should we be worried—as Lloyd is—that Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are busy whispering in Chris Paul's ear about what he should do when free agency rolls back around in 2013? Go ahead Chris, bite the big Apple...
While the Olympics may indeed provide a unique opportunity for professional athletes to commiserate, it's a huge stretch to hold one venue entirely responsible for the results of the conversations. Let's face it, the world has gotten a lot smaller since the internet came along.
I have relationships with people all over the world I've never met, many of whom I certainly consider to be friends. With the advent of social media this trend has accelerated at an almost exponential pace. How many of us now refer to people as "Facebook Friends?" Depending on how communicative and open we are, people may get to know each other online pretty darn well.
Celebrities are no different, either with the public or each other. Everything from news about any given player or his own personal thoughts may be broadcast immediately over Twitter and then parroted in dozens of online forums.
We can communicate with each other privately almost 24/7 via chat, video chat, cell phone and other means. The next thing you know we'll be having meetings with our holographic friends like the Jedi Council.
Specifically in regard to NBA players; they are also considerably more public than in years past, and everything from their personal lives to each and every game played to any thoughts they wish to share are available on demand. So let's just say the ice is now broken before it ever has a chance to freeze.
Beyond that, it's easy for people to get in touch with each other to talk and NBA players are no exception. There is no reason whatsoever that DWill wouldn't call up D12 and have a chat about future plans if so inclined.
So then, is the argument that players simply wouldn't have done that in the past? Perhaps not. It's hard to deny that professional sports haven't become more of a business, especially with the exorbitant sums of money thrown around. Changing teams in the past was never necessarily a rarity, but it certainly wasn't as routine as it is today.
Admittedly, these are some of the reasons why many fans find a sincerity and authenticity in college sports that the pros can no longer represent, if they ever really did.
The truth about the evolution of pro sports is really quite a bit more complicated than Lloyd suggests. A Bodybuilding.com Forum respondent summed it up quite well:
"The various things these athletes do and put themselves through to produce these outcomes are by far greater than the generations before; however everything playing into and around these professional sports has evolved for the worse."
It is of course, debatable whether or not players communicating and attempting to initiate moves that would bring them together on the same team is, in and of itself, a bad thing. Or, has it become bad because it's simply easier today...or is it really even any different—rather than just more visible—than what teams used to negotiate behind closed doors in the past?
Regardless, since athletes do seem to be willing to do most anything to win, whether for love or money, having a conversation with another player doesn't seem to be a big stretch—even if they aren't in the same room.
Lloyd concludes with a query about how another gold for the USA may come at a price too high and send repercussions across the league for the next four years. Even with the CBA's attempts to make these professional hookups more difficult, it can't affect players' ideas, which grow like weeds in the fertile ground that is Olympic downtime.
I simply can't agree that the Olympics have become little more than an enabling mechanism for malcontents to join forces and buck the system. The truth of the matter is, if team management is on board, where there's a will there's a way—and frankly, in this day and age there are more ways than ever and we can't blame the Olympics for the will.
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