In the last few weeks, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love have withdrawn from consideration for the USMNT. Both players are healthy and entering their primes. Griffin cited his desire to help the Clippers win a title next June, and Love the uncertainty of his playing status given his desire to leave Minnesota and play for the Cavs or some other contending team. If these are their excuses, they are betraying the rebuilt USMNT program.
The USMNT program was restored to glory by securing the commitment of the best American players to compete for their country. It was partly Kobe casting himself as a defensive stopper, the comprehensive brilliance of Lebron James, and the timely scoring of Carmel Anthony, but more significantly restoration came in the pride and brotherhood that emerged from that combined commitment. A place on the USMNT became not only an honor but a duty.
I can excuse injury and age, even in some extenuating circumstance exhaustion, but Griffin’s Clippers were eliminated in the second round, and in six seasons as a professional Love hasn’t played in a playoff game. Their shirking of duty makes it easier for others to do so now and in the future. It erodes the core of accomplishment, diminishes the stature of the USMNT and ultimately any attempt to develop a meaningful World Cup of basketball.