Now that the greatest Olympics of my lifetime (of 28 years) has concluded, it’s time for me to wonder, why do team sports get slighted in terms of medal events?
The dedication it takes for one to succeed at an individual event is truly amazing. All of the worldwide buzz and attention shed upon Michael Phelps and his accomplishment of eight gold medals is more than justified. At no point have I felt over-saturated with the media coverage surrounding Phelps.
However, something must be said about the unity and cohesion it takes to succeed as a team. It’s a display of the true human spirit of being able to work together to accomplish one goal. In my opinion, this is more difficult to achieve than striving for Olympic success alone….if only slightly, because my intent is not to subtract from individual competition.
Focusing on swimming, there are 14 individual medal events and three “team” relay events for both men and women. In comparison, basketball and other team sports have only one shot, each for men and women, in a tournament style medal chase. I’m concentrating on basketball because it is my favorite sport (and this is a Washington Wizards based blog), but basketball is also unique compared to other team sports in that you can practice many skills of the game by yourself. Granted, 12 total gold medals are doled out to each individual member of the winning basketball team.
Which brings me to the point of this post, we need more Olympic medal events for basketball. During NBA All-Star weekend, there are at least four events which would easily translate to the international level: dunk contest, three-point contest, and the skills challenge (each separate events for men and women….well, except for dunking, unless you want to use 8 ft. rims), and then a mixed-gendered shooting stars contest. And I feel confident saying that most other professional basketball leagues spanning the globe have similar events.
How cool would it be to see players from around the world go head to head in these newly added events? Plus, each one is entertaining in a unique way and would attract more attention to Olympic team sports (assuming that similar skills competitions could be set up for other team sports such as spiking a volleyball into a trash can or a soccer shoot out).
Now, the logistics of who would compete would be an issue. I can’t see only allowing players from countries whose teams have qualified for the Olympics participate. FIBA would have to be involved, setting up qualifying events in each of their continental tournaments (FIBA Africa, FIBA Americas, FIBA Asia, FIBA Europe, and FIBA Oceania).
Seemingly the greatest achievement of such individual event inclusion would be allowing countries, otherwise with no chance of ever qualifying for the team event, have hope that they can be represented on the international basketball stage. Such events in basketball would promote the globalization of the sport, and that’s something that FIBA, David Stern, and any other basketball governing body, should support.