Will Jordan and Bird play on the U.S. Olympic team?
Michael Jordan and Larry Bird have discovered how hard it is to say no when your country calls, even when you want to say no, as apparently is the case with Jordan, or when you should say no, as may be the case with Bird. Both players are among the 10 NBA stars who reportedly have told the U.S. Olympic basketball committee that they will accept invitations to play on the 1992 Olympic team. The others are centers Patrick Ewing and David Robinson; guards Magic Johnson and John Stockton; and forwards Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin and Scottie Pippen. The 12-man roster, which will include at least one college player, is expected to be announced on Sept. 21.
Jordan has been vacillating about the Olympics for months. In Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times, he is quoted as saying, "It seems that everybody has been trying to speak for me except me. I have been talking to the people involved. I'm in deliberation over what the schedule will be, and I plan to reach a decision within the next few days."
All along Jordan has said that the reason he has been hesitant about joining the Olympic team is that he didn't want to prevent another player from having the opportunity he had in '84, when he won a gold medal at the LA. Games, and that he wanted to rest during the NBA's off-season. "I spend at least eight months of every year playing basketball to the best of my ability," Jordan told the Sun-Times. "If I don't get proper rest during the summer and report for the season tired or injured and have a bad year, people will knock me for that, too."
Jordan seems to be feeling two types of pressure to compete in Barcelona: peer pressure (Barkley and Johnson are said to have applied most of if and p.r. pressure. Citing as its sources "those close to Jordan," The Atlanta Constitution reported last week that Jordan would participate in the Olympics because he feared that "a public relations backlash would have a negative impact on his endorsements."
Bird's situation is different. He will be 35 by the time the Olympics begin, and he's recovering from off-season back surgery. Whether he will be physically capable of withstanding the rigors of Olympic preparation and play is anyone's guess. Without question, a strong, healthy Bird deserves a spot on the team. But if there's any uncertainty about his condition—and there surely will be on Sept. 21—he would be wise to stick to his original plan of stepping aside for a younger, healthier player.
Just in Time
The Pan Pacific swim meet was a dud until the end
The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, which involved athletes from the U.S. and 15 other countries, seemed like a lull before next year's Olympic storm. Crowds at the Kinsmen Aquatic Centre in Edmonton last week were small and hushed, and with only a half hour to go in the five-day meet, no world record had fallen.