Message to USA Basketball
When they came calling for Dress Code knowledge, I balked. Too easy, I thought; of course our shores would be opposed to slapping off-duty uniforms onto America's most expressive gladiators. It took this triumphant post from the man then known as THC for me to recognize that obvious is far from easy and restore my thoughtful horse. So indeed, I'm gonna take the bait and address the clamoring for an FD platform on international affairs. My take on Spangled Hoops, succinctly and with edges of pain: the general basketball population is burning itself into tormented rubble over nothing, feasting on its own dread and panic as a substitute for outward honesty.
There are numerous reasons why last Olympics and those Indy Worlds should be written off as disasters, which may or may not mean that America could still beat other countries with ease. What I have yet to be convinced of is that any self-respecting NBA fan need trouble himself with the proposition "the USA should be able to enter the fray of international competition and emerge the sole survivor." True Hoop has been all over the casual equivocation of World Champ and NBA Champs, including the Spurs' gentlemanly acceptance of the technical facts. While I'm hardly one to mess with natural law, there is something proud and deserving about the way players tend to talk about the LOB: namely, try convincing any of them that said trophy doesn't represent the utmost in team basketball achievement.
International competition is noble and all, but it's a secondary activity, like NCAA ball. Different, perhaps better suited to some tastes. . .and emphatically not the highest concentration of talent per capita in the universe. I am reminded of a favorite movie of mine, in which a monstrously powerful political figure has great difficulties running for mayor in a rural enclave. If anyone thinks that makes him the lesser man of the two, I would like to present you with a bank full of moral victories and folksy consolations in life.
If international basketball is a sideshow that for some reason pro stars can't win, true NBA believers need not feel the acid pull of desperation. I don't want to shit on any foreign lands by saying the basketball they so cherish is beneath us, but a list of the 100 Greatest expanded beyond our borders might charitably include three non-Americans. On the other hand, if it's legitimately a different game, our men and women in the trenches should be allowed to dismiss it (or at least the chance to learn it before being plunged into derision). I cannot help but return again to NCAA ball: only a fringe NBA'er would ever put his college accomplishments above his time in the pros. But just as a preference for NCAA ball points toward a man's soul, anyone hung up on international competition suffers from wanderlust and distraction. Possibly due to off-season malaise.
Some preemptive mumblings: yes, in the Dream Team era, victory came with ease. Those squads were disgustingly well-endowed and their victims not nearly as competent, a combination that made the NBA/all-places distinction into fine print semantics. I have no problem with allowing that the rest of the world might now be advanced enough to outwit NBA players in a specialized setting. And even if the game now hovers over all nations, shit is American in origin and continues to emanate from this proud land of ours. Until European leagues regularly produce All-Stars, or cease to be dumping grounds for lost second rounders, international ball is a derivative of the NBA. And this Association of ours will remain the Real Thing, to which all others forms must pay homage.