All Eyes On Team USA Basketball at 2012 London Olympic Games
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports in London as the NBA stars of Team USA meet with the International Media in their quest for Gold:
LONDON – At one point in Friday’s USA Basketball introductory media conference at the Olympics, the crowd of cameras and reporters in front of LeBron James was 23 deep. Twenty-three. A mass of humanity that included reporters standing on chairs, craning for a glimpse of him.
LeBron’s crowd merged with Kobe Bryant’s on one side and Carmelo Anthony’s on the other, creating an absolute throng of journalists, a complete mess of people. The reporters had already been warned not to seek autographs and pictures, though that was ignored on occasion. This wasn’t a news conference. It was a mad house, 600 media members in attendance. At least. Team USA and Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski, his own pack in front of him, peered over at the craziness, shook his head and laughed.
“Look at that,” he said.
Perhaps the concept of the “Dream Team” has faded back in the States, and maybe there will be a movement to an under-23 team at these games – a debate NBA commissioner David Stern and a number of his owners have raised. But anyone who thinks this isn’t still a big deal around the world hasn’t seen USA Basketball’s traveling rock star show.
The send-the-college-kids crowd?
“They are not getting how big this is,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s way beyond that now.”
Twenty years into the Dream Team experiment, the world still sops up every last bit of the hype.
This was the biggest media conference in the run-up to the Olympics, the players needing security just to get into the building. And they were still stopped for pictures and autographs, swarmed as they rode up an escalator from the parking garage.
It was no different Thursday night, they said, when the players visited the Olympic Village, causing their fellow athletes to go wild. (The team, for security and comfort reasons, stays at a hotel away from the village.)
For everyone associated with USA Basketball, this has become everyday life. From Spain to Turkey to Beijing to London and beyond, there is an incalculable value in the star wattage of Kobe, LeBron, and the rest of Team USA.
“You can’t put a figure on it,” Krzyzewski said. “I think if someone in stats tried to say it’s worth this much, you can’t.”
Krzyzewski has heard the cries of returning to the old days. Some are college basketball fans who can’t comprehend how much better international hoops is and resent the big-money pros and their supposedly corrupt egos. Others are NBA owners who fret over their high-priced employees risking injury for free while lining the pockets of the International Olympic Committee.
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