It starts Sunday against France.
The greater question is whether it also is the start of the end.
For a three-week period in London, we will get an opportunity to experience what David Stern seemingly no longer wants you to see: veteran NBA stars competing in the Olympics.
Initially, Stern came off as someone championing the greater good, that by limiting Olympic basketball competition to players 23 and younger, as men's soccer does, the NBA's stars no longer would feel quadrennial pressure to represent their county, United States or otherwise.
With the NBA willfully enabling the one-and-done pipeline from college, a 23-and-under edict essentially would open a single Olympic opportunity to those interested. Then they could move on with their summers.
But as with so many things Stern, the objective was veiled.
Apparently, it would only be an Olympic objective, not a basis for all international competition.
Not only does Stern's greater view of the greater good apparently still include ageless participation in the World Championships, the event played in even-year, non-Olympic years, but a rebranding of those World Championships to an NBA-branded World Cup of Basketball.
And that changes everything.
Because that wouldn't be about conserving the best of basketball for the NBA calendar, but rather for the NBA's financial gain.
Why there hasn't been an uproar from the players' association is beyond us, unless their take from such a World Cup of Basketball would equal the current 50-percent take from the new collective bargaining agreement.
As with the Olympics, participation in such a World Cup of Basketball would be voluntary. In the owners' perfect world, it also would come without pay. But it's one thing to devote an offseason to patriotic pride in the Olympics, another to wear national colors while profiting NBA's coffers.
So does that mean LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant would receive the same $200,000 (give or take) per game they receive during the NBA season?
It would be interesting to see how strong the NBA's commitment to such an international, NBA-branded world championship would be if it also included scale salary for all those involved.
For now, the offseason belongs to the players. While the collective-bargaining agreement includes certain prohibitions, and contract riders include others, such as skydiving and motorcycle riding, the non-NBA months are the players' months. Yes, league approval has to be received to participate in offseason charity games, but NBA banning Olympics participation would have to be written into the CBA. Beyond that, what if a player is a free agent, could he then be banned under an NBA 23-and-under Olympic rule, since he technically would not be in the NBA at the time?
On the face of it, a 23-and-under rule makes sense under an NBA calendar that barely affords three months away from the game when counting the full breath of the playoffs and then early starts to training camp for teams with overseas preseason schedules.
It used to be that the only time you could witness such assemblages of All-Stars was on a Dream Team. Now you can find them on the Heat and the Thunder and the Lakers and even on the Clippers and the Nets.
Dream Teams these days are being featured annually, USA Basketball no longer required to recruit such quadrennial combinations.
The basketball world is changing, in a large part because of what Stern has accomplished under his stewardship. Make no mistake, with the loaded rosters of the Heat, Thunder, Lakers, Clippers, Nets and perhaps even Knicks, it could be argued that this coming season's television schedule will be its own World Cup of Basketball.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Is there anyone who doubts that the annual NBA champion could defeat any national team beyond that of the United States', even with Sunday's pre-Olympic exhibition struggle against Argentina?
Amid pushback from some of the current national-team members, most prominently Kobe, Stern has softened the stance, the eve of the Olympics hardly the best time to champion such a position.
"I said that after 20 years, it's time for the owners to sort of think about what other options there might be," Stern said after the recent Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas. "I didn't stake out a position. I said one option is what soccer does, what you Americans call soccer, you know, which is 23 and under.
"There are all kinds of other options, as well. So based on that, I think Kobe is right. Maybe it is a stupid idea and soccer is stupid. But we should see how that works out."
If Stern wants to champion 23-and-under as a way to keep his league strong, have his players ready, keep his stars revitalized and rejuvenated, then we have no issue.
But if Stern is advocating 23-and-under for the Olympic merely as a way of furthering the NBA's profits, then his players have every right to challenge such an approach.
Because if they're going to be playing solely for honor, and not for profit, then they at least should benefit by being part of the Olympic village, of a spectacle greater than NBA ownership self-indulgence.
Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.
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