March 05, 2006

Iverson gets jobbed

While watching an NBA game the other day I learned something that really upset me. Allen Iverson, my favorite player, will not be invited to the upcoming practices for Team USA in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. To be sure, they haven't even selected the final 12 man team -- this is simply the list of 22 that will eventually be narrowed down to 12.

Iverson is easily one of the top ten players in the NBA right now, possibly the top five. Bill Walton mentioned during an ABC telecast of the Sixers game today that he thought only Shaq and Tim Duncan have done more than Iverson for NBA basketball since the retirement of Jordan. He has the third highest points per game stat in the history of the NBA. Given his elite skill level, it's ridiculous to think he shouldn't be on the list of 22 that get the chance to make the final team.

Iverson - disappointed but not letting it get to him.

Why do I like Iverson so much? He's a dynamic and exciting player. He's also the shortest and lightest player ever to win the MVP award. He came from poverty too which serves as inspiration: a poor man of moderate build can still be the best in the world at something. Because he's so short compared to the other players he often makes the most fantastic and dazzling plays out of necessity. A game with Iverson in it is never boring.

So why did they decide to keep Iverson off the team? An obvious explanation would be that he doesn't get along with Kobe. Or that he's had trouble in the past with Larry Brown -- the coach of the 2004 Olympics team. As an aside, everyone was so quick to blame the players for only getting bronze in 2004 but when you have the best players in the world and you fail to get gold who else is there to blame but the coach? The same Larry Brown that lost the 2004 Olympics also lost the 2001 NBA Championship by -- among other things -- inexplicably taking Mutombo out of the game late in Game 2 after Shaq fouled out.


Iverson and Mutombo - they'll be watching the 2008 Olympics on TV.

The real reason why Iverson was excluded might be more shady than a simple personality conflict. According to Walton, 17 of the 22 players invited are Nike-endorsed players and not a single Reebok-endorsed player (such as Iverson) was invited. It's sad to think that Nike money kept one of the most exciting and popular players out of the premier sporting event in the world. The article linked above mentions that Iverson's jersey outsold Yao Ming's in China. To not give Iverson at least the chance to prove he deserves to be on the team is an absolute travesty.

Posted by dr_v at March 5, 2006 02:55 PM

Out of the nine guys originally picked for the 2004 Olympic team, seven of them withdrew. The only two that stayed were Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan. After the US only won a bronze medal, everyone bitched about how to fix the team and repair US basketball. One simple solution might be, don't let Shaq, Kobe, Garnett, Kidd, McGrady, Bibby, and (shockingly enough) Vince Carter quit at the last minute.

In Athens, while Larry Brown was constantly bitching and talking shit about his own team, refusing to play LeBron James or Amare Stoudamire in favor of Stephon Marbury and Carlos Boozer, Iverson only talked about what an honor it was to represent his country. He could have easily won the league MVP last year, and he's a consistently unselfish passer every year in the All-Star Game.

Adrian Wojnarowski wrote:

"Nobody conducted himself better, nor behaved like a better representative of this basketball team than he did in the games. Maybe everyone believed Iverson needed to bring back a gold medal to use the Olympics to rehabilitate his image. They were wrong. There was far more virtue in defeat than victory here. America found out much more about Iverson without him winning the gold, than it ever would've with him winning it.

"'It's an honor to be named to this team,' Iverson said. 'It's something that you should cherish for the rest of your life. And honestly, this is something that I will cherish even without winning a gold medal. I feel like a special basketball player to make it to a team like this.'"

Posted by: sean on March 5, 2006 04:48 PM

Corporations get an enormous amount of power by winning an olympic partnership by meeting certain requirements and offering the most money for the huge advantage of being the sole partner/sponsor in a particular product/service category that is allowed to advertise during the olympics, provide equipment/services, and use olympic symbols. If Nike were a top olympic partner, it's conceivable that they'd have some kind of deal where they got to supply all general gear, which may conflict with Iverson's relationship with Reebok and create a pressure on USA Basketball to favor Nike players.

USA Basketball is a non-profit organization and the national governing body for men's and women's basketball in the United States. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the United States by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA teams that compete in FIBA sponsored international basketball competitions. The competitions in which USA teams regularly compete include the Olympics, World Championships, Pan American Games, World University Games, World Championship for Young Men/Women, Junior World Championships, Hoop Summit and Youth Development Festivals. The USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team will be comprised of 12 of the 23 players named today and compete in the 2006 FIBA World Championship Saitama, Japan, if necessary the 2007 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament and if the USA qualifies, the 2008 Summer Olympic Games Beijing, China.

However, adidas bought the honor of being the sole athletic gear company to be able to advertise and supply official gear during the Beijing olympics. Recently, adidas bought Reebok, meaning that Iverson now indirectly works for adidas. Aaron thinks this gives Nike all the more reason to exert influence over the olympics while it can by packing the US team with Nike players, not drawing fire by not obviously discriminating against adidas players and leaving out all the Reebok guys - even if they are arguably one of the greatest players of all time, easily one of the greatest players in the modern era, incredibly popular in the US, China and the world at large, AND a great distributive point guard who is currently 8th in the league in assists per game and career assists. Just because he's an agressive, talented scorer out of necessity so his team has a chance in hell of winning any games at all, doesn't mean he's not a team player when it's called for... unlike other hot-shot NBA players I will not name.

While this may seem like a conspiracy theory, it turns out that USA Basketball and Nike very recently entered into an exclusive marketing and merchandise agreement. So, while adidas will be supplying official olympic gear, Nike will the be the exclusive apparel outfitter of USA Basketball and hence the US basketball team at the 2008 Beijing olympics. This is the first time Nike has partnered with USA Basketball and I'm not sure who (if anyone) has partnered with USA Basketball in the past, so perhaps this "coincidence" is due to some power or deference USA Basketball routinely gives to its marketing partner or perhaps this was some shady requirement or pressure unique to Nike. Regardless, I agree not even inviting Iverson to practice with the 23 nominees to see how they get along is one of the most unfair, unbelievable things I've heard in a long time. Iverson plays for the love of the game and he loves the USA; he's a good man who just says what's on his mind and keeps it real. I don't think he should be punished for that, underestimated for no reason or kept out because of who sponsors him. BOO USA BASKETBALL SELECTION COMMITTEE!!

Posted by: Kristina on March 5, 2006 05:58 PM

I second that

Posted by: Jason on March 5, 2006 06:14 PM

Don't worry, the olympics is what USA Basketball is all about. To be honest with you I don't agree with the lack of attention that the World Championships gets. We need Heart. Thats what the Olympics is all about. That is why we will win in 2008. We have found that heart though Lebron, Dwayne and carmelo.

Posted by: Brandon Alley on November 26, 2006 02:10 PM

Yes...I agree. He's the absolute best in the world and still he gets no respect.

Posted by: Jay on January 7, 2007 10:22 PM