Kobe Bryant has continued an argument started awhile back by Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen saying that Team USA basketball players should be paid for their efforts in the Summer Olympics. Kobe does go on to say that they would probably play anyway (and are) but that they deserve a share of the huge money being made in merchandising, as well as TV ratings.
As a Capitalist it seems like a reasonable assertion. Without the stars of the NBA USA basketball would not be as popular, and would not make money in merchandise, and would not have strong TV ratings. That is part of the reason the first Dream Team was assembled 20 years ago.
However, it seems that the College Football argument fits best here. The proceeds from College Football help fund all the other sports on a college campus. It would seem that the proceeds from highly popular Olympic Sports (basketball, swimming, gymnastics, ETC.) help fund some of the less popular sports. In the Olympics it is the overall medal count that is important for Team USA and for National Pride. Despite all the revenue it generates Basketball only counts for two medals (Men’s and Women’s).
With that in mind Team USA needs funds to help fund the other less popular sports. If the goal is to win the Olympics (and we define that be leading the overall medal count), as it should be, then basketball and the other more popular sports have to help fund Team USA as a whole.
The other side of this argument is there is little doubt that playing in the Olympics (in foreign lands) helps the stars of the NBA increase their international marketability (for themselves and their official sponsors). That is worth far more than what a simple paycheck would be for playing in the Olympics. Beyond that fact that it should be a honor to represent one’s country in the highest form of Athletic competition on the planet.