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DeCourcy On The Lack Of Vision By Some In The NBA

If you want to go big you have to dream big, and what amounts to a junior-level World Cup is not dreaming big.

NBA player Kobe Bryant and singer Hebe (R) attend new product release conference of Lenovo on August 5, 2014 in Beijing, China.
NBA player Kobe Bryant and singer Hebe (R) attend new product release conference of Lenovo on August 5, 2014 in Beijing, China.

Whatever you might think about Coach K's job with the national team and the recent carping about how Duke might have an advantage because of it, no one in their right mind would question that he's been remarkably successful. He lost once to Greece in his first international event, and that's it. No one's beat his teams since.

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Mike DeCourcy has a somewhat different take than a lot of people: he sees some in the NBA as having "helped wreck the whole thing in the first place" and making "snide remarks" about Coach K.

He picks up the argument about making the national team a collection of 23 (or 24) and unders and says that the NBA needs rather to view the World Cup and the Olympics as the best way to grow the game internationally. It's a reasonable argument.

Look at just Kobe Bryant, who as of 2009 sold more jerseys in China than national hero Yao Ming.

Kobe has gone out of his way to build bridges with his Chinese fans.

That's the basic model and that's what the national team has in many respects embraced and extended (apologies to Microsoft).

Certainly it's the on-court brilliance, the blistering 52-1 record. However, it's also the good sportsmanship, the willingness to reach out, and the quite deliberate diplomacy the entire program practices.

No one is getting stuffed in a trash can.

Despite beating everyone in site and trouncing most opponents, the U.S. is held in high regard worldwide. The Lithuanians, the Serbs, the Filipinos, the French and, yes, the Chinese all want to beat the U.S. team.

It's just that there's no real ugliness. There's no sense that the U.S. needs a comeuppance.

It's just that the Americans are better - much, much better - and everyone wants to catch up.

And that's going to fuel growth and development. It's going to create more Ricky Rubios, kids who play like they grew up in New York or Memphis.

As that growth continues, the game will continue to grow internationally and the NBA will profit, both from players like Kobe making it big overseas and also from importing international phenoms.

Arguably, Kobe is an international player since he grew up in Italy and moved back to the U.S. as a teenager.

Look at who else has joined the league though: Rubio of course. Dirk Nowitzki. Andrew Wiggins. Toni Kukoc. Andrew Bogut. Steve Nash. Luol Deng. Hakeem Olajuwon. Boris Diaw. Serge Ibaka. Jeremy Lin grew up in the U.S., but his dad grew up in Taiwan and fell in love with the league.

And consider the biggest miss of all, who came to late for his brilliant talents to be fully appreciated: Arvydas Sabonis, who at 7-4 was compared to Larry Bird.

Can you even fathom a 7-4 Larry Bird? It's mind boggling (check out this vintage video and some of the stunning passes - the guy was an absolute freak). Cold War politics made us see Sabonis as a Russian rather than a Lithuanian and kept him out of the NBA until injuries had robbed him of his true greatness.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, you could probably say that different areas had different styles, but it's not really like that anymore.

Now, kids across the world play a global game. If no one told you that Rubio was from Spain or that Deng was from Sudan via the U.K., you'd never have a clue.

That's what the NBA has gotten from what's happened with international play, and it's glorious.

And basketball should in some ways look to soccer, it's biggest rival as a global team sport. Players come from all over the world to play in the European leagues and every four years, play for the FIBA World Cup.

There is nothing remotely close to that event.

If basketball ever hopes to emulate the real World Cup, DeCourcy is right: it needs top-flight world events. The NBA (or some in the NBA) are being very short-sighted.