Since Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant and Canada's Andrew Wiggins is one hyped 17-year-old hoops phenom who could be another Kobe in a few short years, it's obvious whose public pronouncements will get a wider public airing.
Whatever one thinks of the the NBA's notion of putting age limit on Olympic men's basketball à la men's soccer — possibly to create less competition for its incarnation of the World Cup — it's hard not to ignore what Wiggins said about the idea. While Bryant, the 34-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star, called the proposal "a stupid idea, stupid," Wiggins was like, make it happen.
"We can win it all," the 6-foot-7 Wiggins told SNY.tv exclusively before going for 24 points and 7 rebounds in Canada's 100-86 loss to U.S. MVP James Young and USA Midwest in the championship game of the Nike Global Challenge Sunday at the D.C. Armory.
... Led by Wiggins, the No. 1 prospect at the Global Challenge, Canada could feature a team that includes UNLV's Anthony Bennett, the 6-8 [Trey] Lyles and the 6-3 [Tyler] Ennis, all potential future pros.
Young Canadian stars like Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cory Joseph of the San Antonio Spurs, Kyle Wiltjer of Kentucky and Khem Birch of UNLV would just miss the cutoff since they will be over 23 in 2016."I think our talent can match their talent," Wiggins said of the U.S. "I think it would be a well-fought game, close game. I don't think anyone can really say that one team's better than the other." (Zags Blog)
There are some obvious drawbacks to the NBA's proposal. The easiest way to put this in a Canadian perspective is to imagine that (for argument's and clarity's sake) the world junior hockey championship was only held during the same year as the Summer Olympics. In other words, hockey players born in 1992 or '93 would have had a greater chance to wear the Maple Leaf in 2012 than those born in 1994 or '95. How is that right, especially when it's about the prestige and honour of representing one's country?
It's not completely cockamamie, though. Jan Hubbard of SheridanHoops pointed out there is a "great tradition" of having the NBA partake in the Olympics, but that's only a creation of the last 20 years. It might be dodgy to directly compare basketball with soccer, which enjoys much more depth globally, but age-restricted tournaments have given countries that have no realistic shot at winning the World Cup a chance to win. Hubbard did note the U.S. hasn't been so invincible in some of FIBA's youth tournaments.
"If everybody else was [limited to 23] I think we'd have an advantage," [U.S. coach Mike] Krzyzewski said. "Usually the U.S. kind of dominates or wins a lot at the younger age and then it become tougher as you go forward."
Actually, there are mixed results. In the most recent competitions, the U.S. finished fifth in a tournament involving players 19 and under, but won competitions at 18 and under and 17 and under. (SheridanHoops)
Bryant's take probably reflected the majority opinion. Why ruin a good thing irrevocably other than self-involved reasons? It would be tough to replicate the World Cup; the NBA is more likely to get a hipper version of the World Baseball Classic.
It is fun to think about strictly through the go-Canada-go lens. The country is on an upswing with producing basketball talent. Time will tell if how the current bumper crop of teen players — including current Gonzaga point guard Kevin Pangos — develop and if there are more where they came from.
Wiggins and others who are coming of age on the court helped Canada win a bronze medal at the under-17 worlds in 2010. Add six years to each of those numbers and you get an under-23 tournament in 2016, just saying. Of course, it would be far sweeter for Canada Basketball if the senior men's national team qualifies for Rio through the current setup.
(Incidentally, here's Wiggins throwing down a putback dunk in an AAU game on Thursday.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.