What happened to Paul George in USA Basketball’s scrimmage earlier this month is every athlete’s worst nightmare while competing for their country in international competition.
For those who don’t know, George suffered an open tibia-fibula fracture after colliding with the bottom of the goal while attempting to block a shot in the fourth quarter of the scrimmage. George, who signed a five-year extension worth up to 90 million with the Indiana Pacers in 2013, will miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season.
There really is no reason that George or any other NBA star should be competing in the FIBA World Cup. There is just too much risk involved for such little gain.
It did not take Kevin Durant long to come to this realization. Just a week after George suffered the gruesome injury, Durant withdrew from the team, citing “physical and mental fatigue.”
That very well could be true, but it is naïve to believe that George’s injury had absolutely zero affect on Durant’s decision to withdraw. It did not take long after the announcement for some fans to express their displeasure with Durant’s decision. Fans took to the twitter to express how Kevin Durant clearly hates America or something else along the lines of how he only cares about himself and money.
The criticism even led Durant to tweet, “You Can’t please everybody. Forreal.” Though many fans were unhappy, it is not hard to see why Durant made the decision that he did.
The biggest consequence that a player of Durant’s caliber could face after an injury is future financial loss. Not just a couple million dollars, but possibly hundreds of millions. Durant was recently offered a sponsorship deal from Under Armour worth 325 million over the next ten years.
If he suffered an injury similar to George’s, it is possible Under Armour could rescind the offer.
If the injured player is never able to return to their previous form on the court, they could also lose millions in their next NBA contract. Looking at this purely financially it should be easy to see why some players may not want to compete in international competition.
Not only do they have a ton to lose, but there really is not much to be gained either.
Honestly, does anyone remember Jordan for what he did in international competition? No. People remember him for winning six NBA Championships. It could be worth for young payers on the rise to prove that they compete against top-notch competition and also play alongside other big names, but elite players are past this point in their career. Besides claiming that you won an Olympic gold medal, there is not anything real appealing about international competition.
For many players, the chance to represent their country by playing the game they love is an opportunity that is too good to pass up. Even though they still have the risk of suffering an injury, the chance at winning a gold medal outweighs that risk.
There is nothing wrong with that. For many others, the opportunity to represent America and win a gold medal does not outweigh the potential financial loss or the missed opportunity to compete for an NBA Championship.
There is nothing wrong with that either. It is time that we stop labeling players “greedy” or “unpatriotic”, as Durant was after withdrawing, just because they choose not to play for their country.
Some people may say that risking money and your career is the point in playing for or representing your country. I would agree with that if the players were competing for something valuable. I’m not sure anyone is going to have thier life completely changed by the USA winning the 2014 FIBA World Basketball Championships.
For example, soldiers risk way more than ay athelte when they choose to fight for our country. They are literally putting their life on the line. The differnce is they are risking everything in order to protect something that truly matters, our freedom.
Players have to make the decision that is best for them. For Durant, he believed the best thing to do was withdraw, and we should respect that decision.