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On the 2004 Olympics and Bill Walton

Like many of you, I saw this AP article pop up in a few places about how some people wanted to send the Pistons to compete in the 2004 Olympics. It's a cool idea, I guess, and I remember sportswriters talking about it at the time, but I don't know why it's being discussed now as something that was seriously considered.

Even if it was, though, Detroit's lineup wouldn't have been the same as the one that beat the Lakers. For one, Rasheed Wallace was a free agent, so he wouldn't have played. Neither would have Mehmet Okur, who was also a free agent, and more importantly, Turkish. That would have left Detroit with Corliss Williamson or Darvin Ham at the power forward spot. Ouch.

Some individual members of that title-winning team were in fact invited, but only after every other NBA star turned down their invitation:

Billups may have considered the invitation, had it been extended sooner.

"It was really the way and the manner that they asked me,'' said Billups, the MVP of the '04 finals. "They asked like 12, 14 other guards, and then they couldn't get none of them, and they were like, 'How about Chauncey?'

"I felt that was a disrespect to me for what I've done, what I had been through and what I had showed on the court and what I could do. So I said I didn't really want to be a part of that. Obviously this time around it's a lot different.''

It's different this year not just because Chauncey was highly-recruited but also because the U.S. is back to winning all of their games. All of those blowouts have left Bill Walton with more room than usual to deviate from the action on the floor and wax poetic about, well, whatever he wants to. From Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune:

The story of the tournament, if anyone wants to write it, has to be the opportunity these blowouts have presented for Walton to detail the cultural and political history of the U.S. opponents, as well as their major geographical landmarks.

Who would have guessed, for example, that one man knew so much about the Sea of Cortez? It's like Walton's playing Trivial Pursuit against himself from behind the microphone. He is his own Wikipedia.

We learned Monday that Mexico City is home to the world's second-largest public square and that Latinos in America have a purchasing power of some $800 billion. We learned that Walton used to cross the border growing up in San Diego to play basketball in Tijuana.

We heard about the devastation of Hurricane Dean, about the Baja Peninsula being the world's third-longest peninsula (not to mention that the main road wasn't paved until the 1970s) and one man controls 14 percent of Mexico's entire economy.

Just imagine what Walton will come up with for the Uruguay game on Wednesday. And imagine how great it would have been to lock Walton and Chavez in a room somewhere in Caracas this summer.

I don't know of any announcers more divisive than Walton -- people seem to love him or hate him with little room in between. Personally, I enjoy him, as does my colleague Ian. As a writer, I can appreciate a healthy dose of hyperbole now and then, especially when it's coming from the best announcer in the history of televised sports.