4. WORLD CUP OF BASKETBALL
After a bronze medal, no one at USA Basketball headquarters was feeling all that great about how the Athens Olympics went for the men. But that was the closing of the circle that began in 1992′s Barcelona Olympics, when the U.S. ran through the field like a Formula One car in the 100 meters. Once the world got done taking pictures with Magic, Michael and the Hall of Fame gang, they went back to trying to beat us. Nothing like the Olympics brings out that desire to smash another nation’s pride peacefully — and nothing like 2004′s comeuppance would have happened without the Games’ worldwide viewing audience from 1992. The World Cup of Basketball idea being floated by David Stern would give its sole ownership to the NBA and its teams (owners, really). Removing it from the Olympics might be the smarter financial move, but it won’t grow the game with everyone watching already interested in the sport. It’s greedy to say so, but hoops deserves the hundreds of millions who watch the Olympics worldwide. Remember the World Cup of Baseball, MLB’s answer to being dropped from the Olympics? No one else does, either.
Basketball is as much about nuance as it is flash. The ease of a Kyrie Irving crossover hides its unbelievable complexity. Try it at full speed like Irving and you’ll likely fall on your face. The best can make everything look easy. That’s where flopping is completely different. No matter how well it’s done, a flop never looks polished. Its awful appearance is tied to why athletes struggle with music, too. They’re athletes, not actors, and most of what’s being passed as a fake foul since Vlade Divac made it a staple in Sacramento wouldn’t pass the standard of being hired as an extra. Any fan knows basketball involves embellishing, but the flop has become so widespread and so blatant it violates every competitive juice. Where Divac started, Manu Ginobili continued the practice. Chris Bosh notoriously tried it once and turned a Carlos Boozer elbow from a foot away into an Internet hit. Some might call it an art. We’ll make a compromise and say it’s like modern art, the kind no one seems to understand.