Will collegiate players return to Olympic basketball?

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As a man of a certain age, I’m very tempted to employ the phrase “back in my day”. It gets more difficult to resist with each passing season. Especially with basketball going through absolutely seismic changes in organizational structure over the past half decade.

For instance: “back in my day, it was called the Big 8, and Colorado was the farthest we had to travel”. See how easy that is? It just rolls off the keyboard. It’s all relative though. Somewhere, there’s a codger who remembers when the University of Chicago was a Big Ten football power, and he’s looking at me with pity in his eyes.

One aspect of the changing of the game that’s always bothered me is the move away from college players in the Olympics. When teams loaded with NBA stars win, it’s sort of an unsightly bully beat-down. When they lose, the ensuing national snit is hard to listen to. It’s a petrie dish of questionable sportsmanship either way.

According to the Collegiate Times, however, the NBA may just be prepared to take its ball and go home. Per a recent article on the Times’ website, the NBA and FIBA are considering the notion of starting up a World Cup of basketball. And why, exactly, would that be a good thing?

While there may be plenty of fond memories of the USA’s gold medals in basketball, there’s one thing that is even sweeter to basketball officials: money.

The tournament would likely bring in millions, or even billions, of dollars through advertising support and TV contracts for the NBA. The International Olympics Committee provides the league with no compensation for its players participating in the games, and this has been a sore spot with many influential people in the industry, such as Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

This effort may seem like pure greed on the part of the NBA, but as America’s Olympic team for 2012 starts to take shape, it seems more and more like this might be the more practical suggestion.

An exodus of top talent to a more lucrative international tournament might not bring about a return to the amateur ideal, but a talented college player might stand a chance of making the team. Then again, now that college coaches are allowed to run limited workouts with their teams in the summer months, we might just find that nobody really wants the gig any more. Could a group of AAU Pump n’ Run All-Stars win a gold medal?

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.