It seems even the greatest athletes in the world can become prisoners of the moment. It may be due to success not normally achieved during an NBA season. Perhaps it is due to the hype around the Olympic games itself. Either way, some of our men’s players have begun to weigh in on whether an Olympic gold medal is just as or even more important of an accomplishment as winning an NBA title. To clarify, winning a gold medal for your country is an admirable feat, but it is not even in the same conversation as winning an NBA title.
During the games, Carmelo Anthony and some of his teammates discussed how much an Olympic gold medal means to them. “Most athletes don’t have an opportunity to say that they won a gold medal, better yet three gold medals,” Anthony stated in an interview with ESPN. “I can look back on it when my career is over — if I don’t have an NBA championship ring — and say I had a great career.”
Deandre Jordan echoed these sentiments when asked by ESPN what a title means to him.
“I think they’re above NBA rings,” he told ESPN. “I may get in trouble for saying that, but I believe that. I feel like this is more special. You’re not just playing teams in the U.S. You’re playing teams from all over the world. And this is even more special because there’s an NBA champion crowned every year, but this is every four years.
“You’ve got to really think about that, man, because it’s extremely special.”
The guys hit the nail on the head when discussing how nice it is to get a gold medal while representing your country. However they could benefit from gaining some perspective on the completely different circumstances of an Olympic gold medal versus an NBA title.
We are far and away the best basketball country on the planet
Coach K just wrapped up his Olympic career with a win-loss record of 75-1 all time. He is without a doubt one of the greatest basketball minds of all time and deserves respect. While worthy of credit and celebration, it is hard to ignore that it is easier to get the job done when you have the best players! Just take a look at some of the names we did not send to the Olympics this year: Lebron James, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Lamarcus Aldridge, Kwahi Leonard, Anthony Davis.
It can be easily be argued that the team of players we did not send could beat the team that we did send handily. That being said, the group of guys we did send handled their business in a relatively easy manner despite a few hiccups (France/Australia). We are the only team in the world where any player on the team (yes even Harrison Barnes) can have a 20-30 point night.
We are the only Olympic country in any sport that sends our tier 2 talents with no sweat
Some argue that the rest of the world is getting closer to the US in terms of competition yet considering we did not even send our top 5-8 players those fears need to be tempered a bit. We are not sending over our Lionel Messi or Nemar to compete versus international competition. We have the luxury of not needing to. There is something to be said for routinely sending over B+ to A- players with full expectations of winning Olympic gold anyway. In the NBA no one team is fully expected to win a title every single year. When the Olympics roll around for our guys it is a victory parade with exhibition dunk contests mixed in every four years. Seriously, we have won 15 of the 18 gold medals since basketball began. Ridiculous.
An NBA Title Is More with Less
Carmelo Anthony has been a winner everywhere besides his professional career in the NBA. From Oak Hill Academy to Syracuse to the Olympic games he has a resume beyond the dreams of many. I’m sure Knicks fans would like an NBA championship though. Getting a Larry O’brien trophy is a different animal. Basketball in the NBA is played at the highest level from night to night and there are no assumptions or givens. Sure we have an idea of favorites to win a title but any given night provides us with instant drama. The Knicks with a hot night from Melo are just as dangerous as anyone else.
The kicker is that an NBA championship shows a TEAM consistency over an 82 game stretch into the playoffs. A contender needs at least two alpha players with a strong supporting cast to have a chance at celebrating at season’s end. The great teams are not littered with the unlimited talent of an Olympic roster. It would mean much more to be the lead dog of a championship team where you are truly needed to perform each night. If anyone on our 2016 Olympic roster did not make the trip we would have won anyway.
Could it be that players who have seen marginal playoff success look to the merits of an Olympic gold medal as consolation? Or do players get caught up in the emotion and grandeur of the Olympics and forget that at home they have to battle night in and night out for a championship? Whatever the case, winning the Olympic gold for team USA is a three week summer camp. The accomplishment has great symbolic value but pales in comparison to that of an NBA title.