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Monday, 04.09.2006

posted by Sven Simon 04:2 pm

Category: FIBA World Championship  
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WHY WE LOVE NOT TO CHEER FOR TEAM USA!

Guten Tag Everybody,

Some American journalists have been complaining about the almost hostile attitude towards the American players during the last couple of years, not coming from the young basketball fans - who still love the NBA players -, but from the people who are involved with international basketball or the fans of the European basketball for example. Back in 1992, the whole world loved the Dream Team, whereas now many people love to dislike the American national team. And every time I speak with colleagues or basketball fans from outside of the states about Team USA I get the same opinion: almost everybody hopes that the superstar loaded team loses. To be honest: I feel the same way. Let me try to explain.

The first time the US team lost ever since the they started sending NBA players (at the WC 2002 in Indianapolis), me and the rest of the world celebrated because everybody loves to see the favourite going down. Starting with the original Dream Team, the US had won all four tournaments it played in (Olympic Games 1992 in Barcelona, 1996 in Atlanta and 2000 in Sydney and World Championship 1994 in Toronto), pushing their record to 58 wins in a row in ten years without a single loss. The question at the time was, will they ever loose? When will it happen? So excuse the rest of the basketball world for being happy about Team USA's three looses in Indianapolis against Argentina, Yugoslavia and Spain.

Only, after the WC American players and media alike chose to treat the losses like an accident, a la "We are still No. 1 and will show it in Athens". People chose to focus on how badly the US team had played, not on how well their opponents had played. How about giving some respect to the other teams?

In my opinion, USA basketball and the American players already were acting way to cocky and self-assured in Indy, beginning with their preparation period lasting a whole ten days. Because of the time delay between America and Germany, I had to finish my stories for the newspapers very quickly after the games. That ment on the flip side: I had a lot of possibilities to go out at night! And guess which players I met every night in a club called Lotus … ? Two days before the first loss against Argentina, I met Paul Pierce and Elton Brand at a fast food restaurant called "steak'n' shake". I was drunk and so were they. I told EB my opinion about their short preparation, about them going out at night, about their arrogance and that they were gonna lose some day. "It will never happen", was his answer. On the mourning of the game against Argentina, my colleague André Voigt did an interview with Andre Miller at his hotel room. He asked him about Manu Ginobili, who was playing in Italy by that time. "Manu who?", was the answer. Miller didn't even check the scouting report the assistant coaches gave him.

Next example: During the preparation for the Olympics in Athens, Team USA visited my hometown Cologne to play Italy and Germany. On the first night in Europe the team (except Tim Duncan, Richard Jefferson and Allen Iverson) went out at night. At first to the Hard Rock Café, later they moved on to the red light district. The next day they took jumpers from midcourt during warm up … then they lost big time. Lebron James told me before the game, that he knew none of the Italian players. After the loss I asked him again. "No", he said, "but number six will play in the NBA soon." He was talking about Gianluca Basile, who was 29 years old at the time.

Being unfocused and arrogant is bad. Being unfocused and arrogant and losing games is … embarrassing. These are some of the reasons why I don't cheer for the Team USA anymore.

But sadly the arrogant behavior doesn't stop with the players.

Check this videotape of the best dunks of all time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvCifZcbb-s

I'm not sure, but the commentators should be TNT's Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. Anyway, first place for the best dunk of all time goes to Vince Carter jumping over Frederic Weis. Good choice! But listen to the commentary and you hear that "it doesn't count when you dunk over an European, because you can do everything against those guys", and everybody is laughing. That is not only a cheap shot, it's also not true. Just ask Dwyane Wade about a German guy called Demond Greene … Maybe Charles Barkley forgot that he once visited Europe with some other NBA pros and played against a German youth team. During a fast break an unknown skinny kid (later known as Dirk Nowitzki) dunked on him. Check it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=upnEFHQlDqo

Even after the 2004 Olympics, some of the American media refused to give international basketball any credit. Instead, they chose to take a page out of Tim Duncans book (which surely is entitled "FIBA sucks!"). After four losses in one month, journalists, fans and players alike were still looking for silly excuses like bad referees or whatever. And at the beginning of the WC in Japan it was almost the same. Chris Sheridan from ESPN published a column with ten reasons why the US will not win the gold. Reason number nine was because "some of these teams stink" which supposedly "keeps defenders a few extra inches away". You don't believe it? Here is the original quote:

9. The smell factor. This is a little disgusting, but it's true: Some of these teams stink, literally. Players on international teams travel to and from the arenas in their uniforms, and many players forsake showers as a result. I got a really close look at Argentina during the Worlds in Indianapolis, and I do not believe Fabricio Oberto, Luis Scola or Andres Nocioni bathed during the entire tournament. BO may be repulsive, but it also keeps defenders a few extra inches away.

And the link:
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=sheridan_chris&id=2553368

To be fair, I have to mention that he apologized for that line two weeks later. And don't forget that he was one of the few American journalists who said from day one, that Team USA will not win the gold medal.

Now you know some of the reasons why I'm not a big fan of the Team USA anymore. Not to mention that other teams played better team basketball the last couple of years, which coincidentally is what I love most about this sport - team basketball. It is like former Yugoslavian national coach Svetislav Pesic said in Indianapolis - one hand always beats five strong fingers.

At the end I want to mention that I was really impressed by Coach K. He gave a lot of respect to the other national teams and their coaches.

Check it here:
http://www.fiba.com/pages/eng/fe/06_wcm/news/inte/FE_news_inteArti.asp?newsID=15725&lid_6751_eventID=3507&lid_6751_langID=1&roundID=3507

And some American journalists got enough of the arrogant behavior of their players, as you can read for example in this column from Justin Doom from Sports Illustrated:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/justin_doom/08/25/dooms.day/index.html

Finally, I think the young American team played with passion and is on the right way. I would love to see the core of this team at the Olympics in 2008. Because we all know that the NBA players are very important for the FIBA World Championship and the Olympics to get as much media coverage as possible.

Okay, that's it for my blog. Thanks for reading my thoughts and of course thanks to Florian Wanninger and Nicolas Chapart from the FIBA, who gave me the possibility to write for the website of the WC.

spiele hart, spiele smart, lies FIVE (www.fivemag.de), rät der sven.

PS: Hello Commissioner David Stern, don't you think it is time to stop calling the winner of your league "world champion"?