Olympic Basketball Votes to Allow Pros : Door Now Open to Top NBA Players to Compete in Games; U.S. Opposed Decision

From Associated Press

International basketball voted overwhelmingly today to allow professional players in the Olympics. The United States, which will benefit most from the move, voted against it.

At a special session of FIBA, the international basketball federation, the proposal to permit the top stars of the NBA and other professional leagues to play in previously amateur tournaments was adopted 56 to 13, with Greece refusing to vote, according to Boris Stankovic, FIBA’s secretary general.

Stankovic said the new rules took effect immediately, although regional federations would be given time to work out details.


A Soviet Union proposal to limit each nation to two pro players during a transition period also was rejected, 53 to 15, with one unidentified abstention, Stankovic said.

‘Entry Into 21st Century’

“We see this as our triumphant entry into the 21st Century,” said Stankovic, a former Yugoslav player and coach and a leading supporter of the pro-eligibility movement.

Dave Gavitt, president of the USA Amateur Basketball Assn., said his federation voted against the plan because the colleges and high schools that make up the majority of its constituency opposed it.

“I’m not sure the NBA, if it had a vote, would have voted for it, either,” Gavitt said.

After the vote, held in the same complex of stadiums and arenas where the United States’ unbeaten streak in Olympic basketball ended at 62 games with a last-second loss to the Soviet Union in 1972, Gavitt told the delegates the move was necessary “in this new, worldwide era.”

The NBA issued a statement in New York that said the league and the players’ union is working to develop a framework for players to participate.

“We have also begun a constructive dialogue (with the Amateur Basketball Assn.) and its president . . . and expect to begin meetings shortly to resolve the number of issues that are presented by this new era of open basketball,” Russ Granik, the league’s executive vice president, said in the statement.

On Thursday, Gavitt said having the pros in the games would guarantee a U.S. gold medal in Barcelona.

Despite a lukewarm reception from NBA players, the decision means the Olympic losses suffered by the United States against the Soviet Union in 1972 and 1988 won’t be repeated in Barcelona in 1992, Gavitt said.

Even with pros eligible, the United States might not have the services of all of the best at the Olympics.

An Associated Press survey of NBA players found 63% favoring open eligibility and 58% saying they wanted to play in the Olympics.