Road to London: Check Your Passports

by March 06, 2012

by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor

It has been a busy couple of weeks since I last updated you on all of the exciting, stupid, and downright weird Olympic basketball news, so we’ll get straight into it with…

Kyrie Irving turns down Australia

Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving has rejected the opportunity to represent Australia in London this summer, preferring to hold out for the opportunity to earn a spot on the Team USA roster for the Rio 2016 Games. The chance to link up with his former Duke coach, Mike Krzyzewski, was a key factor for Irving, who holds a dual US/Aussie passport. He has been the stand out rookie in the NBA this season, making the distinctly average Cavs a far more competitive team than their 13-23 record suggests, which makes the news tough to swallow if you’re Down Under, but pretty great if you’re American.

Anyone got a British grandma?

Kyrie Irving isn’t the only guy with passport related decisions to make. With the chance to play in the Olympics at stake, all kinds of guys are getting on the phone to their grandparents to double check where the family tree might spread. MVP in London broke the news that the Bobcats’ Byron Mullens has acquired a British passport and is hoping to play for Great Britain this summer, while Pacers guard Darren Collison and Grizzlies forward Dante Cunningham had both tried and failed to prove British family ties. Pistons guard Ben Gordon committed to the British side two years ago is yet to pull on a GB jersey. Do these guys really care about the country they are going to represent? Will they stick around after the glamour of the Olympics has gone away? Should teams like Great Britain not be taking the chance to test their young players against LeBron, Kobe, and the rest?

Warm up games

The warm up schedules for Olympic teams are coming together nicely, with some of the big guns revealing their plans over the past week or so. France have the busiest schedule so far, with Tony Parker and co playing no fewer than eight games over two weeks—including double headers with Italy and Spain. The Spanish are hotly tipped to give Team USA a run for their money, and we’ll get the chance to see a sneak preview of a potential gold-medal game on July 24 in Barcelona. The defending champions have four games lined up, including the Spanish exhibition—they’ll face the Dominican Republic in Las Vegas (July 12), Brazil in Washington DC (July 16), and Great Britain in Manchester, England (July 19).

Those USA uniforms

Chances are, you didn’t miss the media takeover that was Nike’s Innovation Summit (if you did, check out Abe’s awesome write-up and interview with the Nike guys here). As well as some crazy knitted sneakers, the Swoosh unveiled the uniforms that the US men’s and women’s teams would be wearing in London—featuring a slightly controversial new logo. I’ve worked on some rebranding projects in my time, and the one thing I’ve learned is that people don’t like change. It’s easier to dislike something new than get used to it. Personally, I think the new logo and the new uniforms look great (although a little nod to ’92 would have been cool), and I have no doubt that the tech behind it all is on point.

Alongside the jerseys, Nike launched the Hyperdunk shoe that LeBron and some of the other guys will wear, and gave us a tiny sneak preview of the Olympic edition Kobe VII and KD IV will look like. First impressions—the Hyperdunks are growing on me (I can’t wait to try out the new Nike + Basketball technology later in the year), and I have a feeling the KD’s are going be a hot release this summer. When the official images of those are released, along with the adidas kicks that DRose and Dwight Howard will be rocking, you know you’ll be able to check them out first on SLAMonline.

Weird Olympic Merchandise #2

The official soccer ball of the 2012 Olympics might just be the ugliest soccer ball of all time.

Best of the rest

– The basketball world mourns the fact that Jeremy Lin won’t be playing in the Olympics (although he might get to work out with the USA team)

– Russian officials are worried that jet lag might prevent their boys from qualifying

– Former NBAer John Amaechi is a guy who likes to speak his mind, and he’s not a big fan of the way basketball is run in the UK ahead of the Games

– USA Basketball have revealed the women’s roster that they hope will bring home gold. It features Tamika Catchings, Sue Bird, and Maya Moore

– The British team have been warned against shaking any hands this summer. Reports that doctors have demanded the team develops its own Jeremy Lin/Landry Fields routine instead are unconfirmed