NBA Olympians: Should we pay basketball players?
Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade have suggested that they should be paid to play in the Olympics. It’s an interesting concept. These guys have world-class talent that is at a premium and highly-valued in their mainstream jobs. The Olympics, of course, offer the counter argument of patriotism.
If Diana Ross is asked to sing at the presidential inaugural ball, should she get paid? If Maya Angelou is asked to write a verse for a memorial wall in D.C., should she be compensated? It’s a solid debate.
But there’s a fundamental reason why America’s best basketball players should not be paid for their Olympic experience: supply and demand. The market economy.
If Wade and Allen don’t want to play for free, fine. That’s their choice, and it might not be a bad choice. But I have a feeling that USA Basketball could put together a 12-man squad of unpaid volunteers that would not embarrass the country. I’ll bet that if the 10 best American players — you get to name them — decide they won’t play, the U.S. could go to the next 10 best and still have a rousing team.
Here are some players who, for reasons ranging from unselfishness to public ignorance to team circumstances, are not considered superstars: LaMarcus Aldridge, Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah, James Harden, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Kyrie Irving, Ty Lawson, Andre Igoudala, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson.
You don’t think Mike Krzyzewski or Gregg Popovich could coach 10 or 12 of those guys into a great team? You don’t think most of those guys would play for the U.S. Olympic team and want nothing more than a team jacket? Guys who are on the under side of stardom or superstardom or maybe just the respect they feel they deserve. You don’t think guys like Chandler — a wonderful center, by any stretch of the imagination, who for some reason is not put on the same level of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum — would relish the idea of winning Olympic gold for his country?
That’s why Allen and Wade are wrong. They are paid those $12 million, $15 million, $18 million contracts because they can do stuff most other players can’t do. But when it comes to the Olympics, the supply and demand changes. There aren’t 30 teams vying for the supreme talent. There is one country, with literally hundreds of great players, that has to fill out a roster. If Wade doesn’t want to play, Harden can play. If Allen doesn’t want to play, Korver can play. Maybe Harden and Korver don’t match Wade and Allen, but they are reasonable facsimilies.
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