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Questions of the day: On the Olympics, gold and priorities

July 23, 2008 | 12:39 pm

There were mini-waves kicked up yesterday when it was reported Kobe Bryant said that, on the Importance-O-Meter, an Olympic gold medal trumps an NBA title.  Why? 

"You're playing for your country. You're not playing for a region, a state … you're playing for the United States of America and that has more importance."

Seems fair enough, but on the other hand, as a Laker sfan, does this bother you?  Listening to the sports talk on the radio last night, I heard AM 570's Joe McDonnell railing not on Kobe personally, but on this idea that a gold is a bigger deal.  I was given the impression he believes players have a larger obligation to the fans of the city for which they play, to the organization that pays them, and so on, and that an NBA title is a bigger deal.  I didn't listen long, nor particularly closely, but there were probably a few callers who agreed.  Of course, in some ways, your thoughts on this issue are linked to the Olympic question generally.  So with that, I ask today's Questions of the Day:

1) Do you care that Kobe said an Olympic gold was more important than an NBA title? 
2) Generally speaking, do you like to see the stars of your favorite teams play in the Olympics?  Especially a player like Kobe, who is risking injury, exhaustion (yes, even Kobe gets tired), and putting off surgery on his finger?  Don't forget, Pau Gasol is playing too. 

For me? 

1) No, it doesn't bother me.  As important as an NBA title is to him, the city, the organization, fans, and beyond, it doesn't have to be literally the top priority of his life.  Family, friends, and yes, even other basketball competitions can come first.  I do wonder what Kobe would say if he didn't already have three rings, and if his thoughts would be any different.  But even if they weren't, it doesn't matter.  He has, by force of his play, shown how much he wants an NBA title.  Nobody is more competitive.  That should be enough. 

Had he said that an MVP was more important, we could talk.  But chastising him for believing that winning for one's country is larger than winning for one's city and employer?  I don't see it.

2) If I'm Phil Jackson, Jerry Buss, Mitch Kupchak, and the rest of the Lakers organization, I'd just as soon see Kobe and Pau rest.  I'm sure most GMs and coaches feel the same about their players who are part of Team USA.  The NBA is a brutal place, especially for players who go deep into the postseason.  There is little time to rest and recoup before things crank right back up for training camp.  Players need downtime, and can suffer if they don't get it.  The Lakers are in a position now where they could play an extra 20+ games a year for the foreseeable future.  That takes a toll.

That said, I also understand- and totally agree with- the idea that as a team, you can't stop a player from playing in something as special as the Olympics.  I know some of the mystique of the games has gone as more pros in every sport get involved, more money is pumped into and sucked out of, and more politics play into the Games, but they're still the Olympics, and the opportunity to represent one's country in international competition is huge.  It's a different kind of pride, one that Kobe alludes to and that clearly Gasol feels as well. 

Is it a nerve wracking time for fans and teams alike?  In a lot of ways, absolutely.  But big picture, you can never fault a player for wanting to play for his country. 

BK


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