The FIBA World Cup is underway in China. The United States are 4-0 and once again, are tournament favourites.
The United States has the advantage of NBA stars joining their ranks for the tournament, but this trend halted this summer. James Harden, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard, along with other stars, all dropped out of the World Cup.
When the United States lost an exhibition game to Australia, breaking a 78-game-winning streak that lasted for 13 years, the lack of star power was apparent. The United States has been notorious at dominating in a number of sports. Some would argue that basketball is their best, so when events like this come around, a star-studded lineup is expected.
Why aren’t NBA stars representing their country?
One reason for player’s absences is because their most competitive season is upon them. In the NBA, the 2010s were defined by super teams. The absences of players from the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors teams widened the skills gap.
When the Toronto Raptors upset the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, the effects were felt league-wide. Signings like Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers created a league of duos- as multiple teams are now judged based on their two best players. The league will be as wild as ever and they want to be ready.
The NBA season is a long, gruelling winter and an 82-game season puts heavy stress on player’s bodies. Extra games can affect their conditioning and increase injury risks.
In 2014, Paul George, currently a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, broke his leg in a team scrimmage as part of a team tryout, leaving him out for almost the entire NBA season. Stories like these caution players into thinking of their professional careers over national pride – but this trend is normal.
The United States’ 1992 Dream Team and 2012 Olympic team, teams assembled specifically for the Olympics, flexed the American’s basketball star-power in the Olympics. The World Cup is for mid-tier players and rising young stars.
The 2014 United States roster for FIBA was headlined by Stephen Curry and James Harden before their combined three MVPs. A 21-year-old Anthony Davis and other young stars like Kyrie Irving and DeMarcus Cousins filled the roster.
This tournament is meant to give the next generation a time to shine.