NBA stars oppose Olympic age limit

Kobe Bryant called NBA Commissioner David Stern's idea of a 23-and-younger age limit for Team USA in future Olympics "stupid."

Only Kobe might be able to get away with using the word "stupid" and his boss in the same sentence.

Stern threw out the concept because NBA owners (his bosses) hate exposing their stars to off-season injury — especially exposing them when owners aren't making money from the Olympic experience.

If Stern's plan becomes reality, the London games might be the last time America would be represented by the NBA's best players.

The notion doesn't make sense now because it's difficult to unring the bell.

If Team USA lost a gold-medal game after this change, the NBA reinforcements of all ages would be back, ASAP.

For all their skill and talent, the U.S. is vulnerable against international teams that also have NBA stars.

After the pros were allowed to play in 1989, the Americans won four consecutive gold medals before falling to Argentina in 2004. And thus began Jerry Colangelo's plan to organize and mobilize NBA players, asking them for a long commitment - and the Redeem Team recaptured gold in 2008.

You can understand why Colangelo isn't a fan of the commissioner's suggestion.

"I don't want to change anything because I like what we have," Colangelo told the Los Angeles Times. "We take care of our players, and I think we do the right things."

In a 23-and-younger plan, three overage players would be allowed to compete per country — a format used in soccer.

Imagine having to pick just three 23-and-older players for 2016 from this group: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook.

"It's a stupid idea," Bryant said. "It should be a (player's) choice. Our discussion is this: Basically, it's just a dumb idea, and we discuss it that way."

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has long been opposed to sending NBA stars to the Olympics after a long NBA season, fearing injury to players.

But Bryant counters the concerns of Cuban and other owners by saying that NBA players play pickup games in the off-season anyway.

"I think that's the wrong way to look at things. If I'm an owner, I would want my player to play (internationally) because I understand that they're going to be playing anyway, going to be playing pickup basketball in the summertime, and I'm not going to be able to know where they are," Bryant said. "They could be playing against a bunch of bums — no, really — guys that feel like they have something to prove, and all of a sudden, a (star player) goes to the rim, and a guy takes them out, and now he's hurt."

Here's the other thing: Why kill the passion of patriotism that stars such as Kobe and others have displayed for the Olympics?

We often grouse about the money and motivation of NBA stars, but the Olympics has brought out the best in them. Don't lock them out — at any age.

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