Mark Cuban wants 'own World Cup'

ByMarc Stein ESPN logo
Sunday, August 3, 2014

In the wake of Paul George's gruesome leg fracture suffered Friday while on Team USA duty, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has renewed his call for the NBA and its players to organize their own quadrennial competition separate from the sport's international governing body.

Long known as the NBA's most outspoken critic of international basketball, Cuban has again questioned when NBA teams allow their players to play for their national teams while taking on the bulk of the financial risk in the event of injury.

"My thoughts go out to Paul," Cuban told on Saturday. "I really feel for him."

Cuban then reiterated his longstanding criticism of the NBA's agreement with FIBA, which stipulates that only players themselves can refuse their country's invite to play for the national team except in the event of a "reasonable medical concern." The San Antonio Spurs invoked that clause this week to prevent Manu Ginobili from representing Argentina at FIBA's upcoming Basketball World Cup thanks to the lingering effects of a stress fracture.

"The [International Olympic Committee] is playing the NBA. The IOC is an organization that has been rife with corruption, to the point where a member was accused of trying to fix an Olympic event in Salt Lake. The IOC [pulls in] billions of dollars. They make a killing and make Tony Soprano look like a saint.

"The pros in multiple sports are smart enough to not play when they are eligible free agents. But teams take on huge financial risk so that the IOC committee members can line their pockets.

"The greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money. The players and owners should get together and create our own World Cup of Basketball."

Cuban is hardly alone among NBA owners who wish their players skipped international competition in the summertime, but he's been on a virtual island in terms of his willingness to make that position public.

He has repeatedly railed against the inequities of a system that sees the NBA realize little tangible profit from competitions such as the Olympic basketball tournament, or this summer's FIBA World Cup, while absorbing all of the financial risk if the stars NBA teams furnish get hurt.

The Indiana Pacers themselves, though, have refused to lash out after potentially losing George for the entire first season of his new five-year, $92 million max contract that kicks in this coming season.

In a statement issued Saturday, Pacers president Larry Bird said: "We still support USA Basketball and believe in the NBA's goals of exposing our game, our teams and players worldwide. This is an extremely unfortunate injury that occurred on a highly-visible stage, but could also have occurred anytime, anywhere."

Cuban has been making his pitch for years, having watched the Mavericks' face of the franchise -- Dirk Nowitzki -- tax his body summer after summer carrying Germany's comparatively undermanned national squad.

In January 2012, Cuban told "It's just the epitome of stupidity that we would allow ourselves to be used so other corporations can make tens, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars. There's some guys sitting at the Olympic headquarters going, 'Those dumbasses, we're taking all their best guys for nothing.' "

Cuban said at the time that he will continue "fighting so that we'll pull [our stars] out."

"I understand from Dirk's perspective," Cuban said then. "We should never put our athletes in that position. For some sports the Olympics are very, very important. For basketball, it's meaningless. It's not that they're not decent games. All things being equal, it's fun to watch us play Argentina and Spain, but it would be just as fun if they were 21 and under."

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