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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

USA ...

JULY 18 - Every single time I pack for a USA Basketball event, the same emotional reaction overtakes my mind when I lay out the "official" USA Basketball team shirts and practice gear. I know why. I just can't believe I feel the same way today as I did the first time I was asked to wear my country's colors and represent USA Basketball at an International event. Just imagine how the players feel when the try-on the USA jersey for the first time?

Ever since the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, the NBA has been heavily involved in the senior national team efforts. It all came about in 1989, when FIBA, the governing body for international basketball took a vote of its members to equal the playing field and 'officially' allow NBA players to participate. Up until then, pretty much every human being walking the earth was eligible to play in the Olympics and World Championships EXCEPT the very best players who had signed an NBA contract. When the vote went down, the USA actually voted against it. ABA-USA - as it was known at the time, was trying to protect its own interests. Sort of strange?

But, anyway, the rest of the world's federations realized this:

A pro player from Europe - such as the late Drazen Petrovic - could make millions playing for Spain's pro team REAL MADRID, and then return to his native land and play for hs national team (note: Petrovic was Croatian but he represented Yugoslavia in the '88 Games and Croatia in the '92 Games).

The NBA guys were just flat out of luck.

That idiotic framework was banished in 1989, much to the credit of Boris Stankovic, the great Executive Director of FIBA and a Hall of Famer.

So, even though a handful of staffers at the NBA had worked to help prepare the '84 USA team (LA Olympics) and the '88 team (Seoul), we were officially on board as of 1992.

I can vividly remember the first USA game in Portland where we were staging the Tournament of the Americas in order to qualify for the '92 games. The USA team broke the huddle by our team bench and Chuck Daly sent out the starters. "My Goodness," was all I could utter as I was alongside the team bench and saw the names on the back of the jerseys walking out for the opening tip-off.

Well, a lot has happened since that July day in Portland in the year 1992.

And, it's all duly noted on USA and many other places.

But, it brings me to today.

I carefully packed two coaching shirts (Blue and White) and about six tee-shirts with the USA National Team across the chest. Folded them so they would look just right after a cross country flight to Las Vegas. And, as I packed today, that same wonderful feeling of pride, passion and a little anxiousness took over my body.

It used to be a formality to go and qualify for the Olympics.

In the year 2007, it is a challenge just to be one of the 12 teams in the Olympics or the 24 in the World Championships.

You know what I think?

It's time to go...

C'mon USA...Let's go.

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