First of all, we should make this clear: We don’t blame Steph Curry for bailing on the Olympics, as he announced today in a statement.

Curry’s ankles hurt. His knees ache. He’s played a ton of basketball the last year. He needs time to recuperate, rest, recover and all those other “r” words.

Still, this is a huge diss to the Olympics.

He clearly doesn’t respect them.

Curry bailing on the Olympics is a sign that they’ve lost their luster for professional basketball players. The Olympics are one more obligation NBA players want to get out of. By saying “thanks but no thanks” to Rio, Curry speaks for a dozen other current NBA stars.

The Olympics had a good run, but the thrill is gone for NBA players. Which is why we need to return to using guys who would jump at the chance to rep their country against the world’s best.

None of them want to go to Rio. Sure, the Zika virus isn’t helping things, but mainly they just don’t look at the Olympics the same way anymore.

It’s not a chance to represent their country. It’s a burden that they won’t get paid millions for.

The circumstances were different back in 1992. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley–they were stoked to go to Spain to play in the Olympics as the first group of NBA players, aka the Dream Team. They couldn’t wait to sign up. Guys like Isiah Thomas and Dominique Wilkins were pissed off when they didn’t get selected for the team. It meant a lot.

Don’t you think Michael Jordan’s knees ached as much as Curry’s ache now? And he’d already WON an Olympic gold medal. Didn’t matter. He wanted to go. He wanted to crush all those inferior basketball teams and step onto the top of the podium and hear his country’s national anthem play, with his hand across his heart and tears running down his cheeks. It was an honor and a privilege. Same for Magic and Charles and Stockton & Malone and Ewing and Mullin and the Admiral. Hell, Larry Bird’s back was so bad he couldn’t even sit down in a regular chair on the sidelines, but he still gutted it out. He went to Spain because the pain of not being there was greater than the pain in his lumbar region.

The Olympics meant something back then.

dream-team featured

They don’t anymore. Curry, LeBron, Durant, Westbrook–these guys don’t want to go to the Olympics. They want to chill beside a hotel pool in West Hollywood, wearing sunglasses and sipping a cold beverage and staring at bikini models and music video actresses.

The Olympics had a good run, but the thrill is gone for NBA players.

Which is why we need to return to using guys who would jump at the chance to rep their country and lace them up against the world’s best. That’s right, we should go back to using college basketball players in the Olympics as early as this summer. Here are a few reasons why this is a great idea:

1. College players will be psyched to wear the red, white and blue, having not yet been corrupted by agents and shoe deals and multimillion-dollar contracts like the NBA stars. They still play for the love of the game. And hey, free trip to Brazil!

2. The contests will be more competitive. Instead of blowing out Australia by 30 in the first half, the games will suddenly be nail-biters. Think less Warriors-Cavs NBA Finals, more Warriors-Thunder NBA Western Conference Finals.

3. There will actually be more patriotism. Think about it. When the winner isn’t a foregone conclusion, more Americans will rally behind the college guys and cheer them on in sports bars, barbershops and living rooms across the country. The college guys striving for an achievement that might be a little out of their reach–as they go toe-to-toe with older, more proven professionals from European “powers” like Spain, Germany, Lithuania and Italy–will create more drama and excitement. There will be more potential for buzzer beaters, unlikely comebacks, goosebumps and flag-waving.

4. If we win the gold medal with our college players, it will be a nice little “f you” to the rest of the world.

Which is always a good feeling.