FIBA not necessarily on board for Olympic basketball age limit

Patrick Baumann, FIBA secretary general
NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
USA Basketball can limit its team to players under the age of 23, as NBA Commissioner David Stern recently proposed, but don’t expect the rest of the world to follow suit any time soon.

Patrick Baumann, secretary general of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), said that he will meet with Stern about the idea to get more details before bringing it to FIBA’s 200-plus members for approval.

“When, whether, what age — I’m not sure they have a clear mind on that,” Baumann said. “USA Basketball may make up its own mind about whether they want to come with youngsters here. That could be their choice. There is going to be a lot of debate. … Every idea is welcome.”

The 23-year-old age limit that Stern proposed has become the most-discussed, off-court issue during the Olympics.

Kobe Bryant has gone on record as being against an age limit for the Olympic team.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was first to raise the idea and has been highly critical of NBA players playing in the Olympics, saying it does nothing but increase the International Olympic Committee’s sponsorship and media rights fees. Kobe Bryant disagreed, saying two weeks ago that players should have a right to decide whether or not they want to play for their country.

Baumann said that creating an age limit would hurt countries like Nigeria, which is still developing the game. He added that FIBA wouldn’t make a decision on the subject any time soon.

The subject likely will become one of several issues the NBA and FIBA work through in the coming years.

Baumann said FIBA is unhappy with the lack of international basketball exhibitions and qualifiers that are played each year. He’d prefer a similar system to soccer, which sets aside a few weekends of every year for players to leave their professional clubs and play in national team games.

“I don’t think there have been official games of USA Basketball in the United States qualifying for somewhere,” said Baumann, who is from Switzerland and also is a member of the IOC. “I don’t remember since 1993, the German fans haven’t seen the German national team playing in Germany. Our members have an issue with that.”

The NBA also has asked for a share of commercial revenues from FIBA’s Basketball World Cup. Both groups want to turn the event, which will be held in 2017 or 2019, into a global property that rivals soccer’s World Cup in size and significance.

If it doesn’t get a share of revenues from the FIBA Basketball World Cup, the NBA could follow in the footsteps of the NHL, which launched its own international hockey competition in 2005 without the blessing of its international federation.

“Everybody’s free to organize a tournament,” Baumann said. “Whether the rest of the world will participate is their choice. If (the NBA is) to distribute billions and billions, then maybe they might participate. If it’s to retain all the benefits for themselves, my guess is the rest of the world won’t participate.”

In May, FIBA created a separate commercial arm called FIBA Media & Marketing Services. Baumann hired two executives behind the creation of UEFA’s Champions League to run it: Frank Leenders and Thomas Klooz. The company will develop, manage and deliver all of FIBA’s media, marketing and events, and will work on its Basketball World Cup.

The World Cup historically has been held two years after the Olympics, which means it happens the same summer as FIFA’s World Cup. Baumann said that the organization wants to avoid competing with FIFA for media and public attention, so it will move its event to either 2017 or 2019.

“We want to be out of the shadow of the FIFA World Cup,” Baumann said. “The biggest properties of the world deserve their own year, and we are one of the biggest properties.”

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