Friday, August 29, 2014

For Club or Country?

Every four years, basketball fans from all over turn their televisions on to watch some of the best players in the world compete in the Olympics and the FIBA World Cup.  These players are all seen playing in the NBA and leagues in their own nations across the world, but are now taking off their club uniform and replacing it with their country.  While fans do see some of the world's best athletes, they do not always see the most prominent players.  LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are both not participating in the FIBA World Cup, but will likely compete in Rio in 2016.

Paul George, a young superstar forward for the Indiana Pacers, recently sustained a brutal injury that may potentially be career-ending:  his leg was virtually snapped in half (non-medical definition).  It was a freak of nature injury that could have happened to anybody doing any sort of activity.  Yet, just days later, Kevin Durant (reigning MVP) decided to not participate in the World Cup due to "fatigue" after a long season.  When Durant stepped down, was that a sign of players not wanting to represent their nation?

Teams will always be nervous when their players are training outside of the team's training facilities, either on their own or with the national team.  The player is out of their hands and anything can happen (see Monta Ellis moped incident 2008).  But the Paul George incident is a little different than the infamous moped; George was trying out to represent his country in one of the biggest stages in basketball.  After his injury, teams have become more hesitant to let their players play for their national team.  Organizations should be proud of a player for their achievements in making it far enough to be called upon for international duty...right?

In comparison, a professional soccer player's goal is to one day play for their country's national team in the FIFA World Cup.  When a player injures themselves on international duty, the club team is not upset, but will immediately try their best to nurse them back to health; it is more honorable for the player to get hurt with their country's crest on their chest.  Similarly, when soldiers die in battle, they country mourns their loss of life in a special way:  they died trying to fight for my freedom.  But when someone gets shot in a drive-by shooting, people are quick to judge the deceased and believe they are involved in gang violence.

How important is the FIBA World Cup to basketball players?  It is nothing compared to the FIFA World Cup and may be on a level slightly above the World Baseball Classic, but players are not as quick to jump at the opportunity to play on the world stage.  As some may say, "Team USA is playing their 'B' team for FIBA."  The Olympics completely overshadows the FIBA World Cup in terms of quality and desire to win.  There are fewer viewers, fewer top-quality talent, and far less interest.

While many basketball players claim they would jump at the opportunity to play for their national team, their club has so much power, they feel more connected to the success of that organization then that of their own nation.  LeBron and Durant arguably would rather see their respective NBA teams fight for the elusive NBA title than a FIBA gold medal their country is trying to claim for the second consecutive year.  This raises the question many basketball fans are wondering:  Is the club more important than the country?  We shall see...

Micah Sokolsky is a Pre-Junior Sport Management major at Drexel University with minors in Spanish and Business.  Micah hails from San Francisco, CA and was a participant on Drexel Sport Management’s College Sport Research Institute (CSRI) team last year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2013.  Micah completed his first co-op with the Camden Riversharks minor league baseball team in their Marketing and Promotions department.  A member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Micah is involved on campus as the Athletics Chairman for the Inter-Fraternity Council and as a Resident Assistant in Race Hall. Connect withMicah on LinkedIn.

No comments:

Post a Comment