We continue to track the Tim Donaghy saga, and we’re putting together a take on that situation as it relates to sports and basketball in general, but we wanted to make brief mention of the following score from Novi Sad, Serbia: Serbia 74, Team USA 69. Yeah yeah, we realize that the Serbs had home-court advantage and it’s
probable possible that there were more than one Donaghy running around in FIBA gear out there, but once again a US team went into an international competition against its peers and came home with something less than the gold medal. In fact, the last time Team USA won the Under-19 competition was 1991, which means that this year’s stars Deon Thompson and Patrick Beverly were still in diapers when we last won this event.
All Hail Serbian Dominance in International Hoops
Is it too much to ask that the United States, a diverse country of over 300 million people where among Gen Y basketball is the most popular participatory sport (over 39M youth participants in 2001) , put together a group of the best 19-year olds in the world? By comparison, Serbia has a total population of just over 10M and a youth population of just under 2.5M (or about the size of the Denver metro area). So, to recap, we have approximately 16 youth basketball players in the USA for every single one of Serbia’s kids, and we still can’t beat them in the game that we invented and honed in our tried and not-so-true-anymore system designed to produce the world’s best players.
How Embarrassing to Lose to These Serbs
If we’re sounding a bit like an old fart, that’s fair. Sometimes we sure feel like one. We certainly realize that the world is catching up in hoops, and the days of any Team USA (from the junior teams all the way up to the Kobe-led Senior Team) rolling roughshod over cowering foreigners (see: Frederic Weis below) are over. But it seems lately that we can’t win any of these competitions, and the same old tired excuses of “different style of play” and “national teams” are falling on our deaf ears.
Rather, we believe that there’s a serious problem with our shoe-company driven AAU youth system that stresses 1-on-1 play over team basketball. To borrow from Rick Barry, it is incredibly frustrating to watch an amazing athletic talent and product of our “star system” like Lebron James play the game at such a high level yet still not know how to properly rub off of a basic screen – nobody ever took the time to teach him how to do it! Unfortunately for the game, fundamentals and team basketball fell by the wayside in the last generation, and we think that fact, more than any other, contributes to our continuing struggles in today’s international competitions. The thing is, much like our health care delivery system, we never hear anyone within the industry say anything good about the broken AAU system, but rare is the man who actually steps to the plate and offers a viable alternative.
Well, at least we know to expect that Michael Beasley, Patrick Beverly and Deon Thompson will have breakout seasons next year.