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USA Basketball Squad Should Have Boycotted Olympics Due to Zika Virus
- Updated: July 7, 2016
Competing in the Olympics representing your country is an honor bestowed upon athletes for centuries and – according to what many of them have stated over the years – unlike any other opportunity that the various sports provides. And winning a gold medal thereat may eclipse even a championship in one’s respective sport. So it comes as no surprise that many athletes around the world have decided to compete in Brazil this summer regardless of the threat of the Zika virus. But comparing multimillionaire NBA professionals to a young amateur track runner is akin to apples and oranges.
USA Basketball held a press conference recently with the players that will make up the roster, along with head coach Mike Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo. A number of them are ‘replacements,’ if you will, for stars such as LeBron James and Steph Curry, who decided to skip the Games for reported reasons other than the specter of the Zika virus. But no one could blame any of them for being honest and admitting that weighed heavily in their minds.
Carmelo Anthony decided to play in his fourth Olympics, becoming the first player in NBA history to do so. “For me to to able to go have a chance to win three gold medals and play in four Olympics, just to represent the country, I feel good doing that,” he said at the press conference.
But the Knicks superstar also didn’t try to sugar coat the obvious when he was asked the question by a reporter. “We can try and downplay the Zika thing as much as we want, but it is what it is,” the none-time All-Star said. “I don’t think anybody really has the answers (on) how to control that, but all of those things came into play.”
Anthony further stated that he spoke to his family, local doctors and doctors who have been in Brazil to make his decision. But there have been other athletes (such as golfer Rory McIlroy) who have made it public that they chose to not go to Rio de Janeiro due to the threat of the Zika virus. And no one should pass judgement on that decision.
What would have been another option os for the NBA Players Association to inform their members that they are recommending to USA Basketball to boycott the Olympics for safety reasons. Let’s take Kevin Durant, for example, who is going to sign a contract for the ages in what has been an NBA free agency extravaganza like no other due to the salary cap being raised. With so much of his career ahead of him, why would he walk a minefield like this?
The union should have made it easier on the players by making the smart decision for them. Even a roster like the one that was put together should take home the gold easily. It’s not the ‘Dream Team’ of 1992, but is much more talented than any other squad they will face. Barring a total collapse (which isn’t impossible, as the 2004 squad learn by having to settle for the bronze medal), USA Basketball should be atop the podium.
And while that is still an accomplishment for the players, will it have been worth it if one of them becomes infected?
Photo by Jim Leary