ATHENS, Aug. 27 -- Guard Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers launched some not-so subtle criticisms of other NBA players who chose not to compete in the Olympics.
Speaking after the U.S. men's basketball team's 89-81 semifinal loss to Argentina on Friday, Iverson said he felt honored to be chosen to participate, and couldn't understand why others didn't feel the same way.
"Any person that's selected to a team like this, it shouldn't be a question in your mind," Iverson said. "It shouldn't even be something to think about. You're honored to get a chance to represent your country, and what's better than that?"
Iverson was one of just three holdovers on the U.S. team -- which will face Lithuania for the bronze medal Saturday -- who participated in a qualifying tournament last summer just for the right to reach the Olympics. Immensely disappointed when he wasn't selected for the 2000 Olympics, he has since watched 14 players turn down the offer to play here, some because of injury, others for personal reasons, and some for fears about security in Greece.
Iverson, who didn't name names, said NBA players should be more grateful to the game that makes nearly all of them millionaires.
"Anybody that grew up in the U.S. and is able to be a basketball player in the NBA, you understand what that country has done for you and your family," Iverson said. "It gave you an opportunity to support your family and be recognized as a household name. I mean, it's just an honor to be able to do something like that, and I would advise anybody that's selected to a team like this to take that honor and cherish it."
Prior to the game, NBA Commissioner David Stern pleaded with reporters to stop talking about which players didn't come to the Olympics, even though the list included such stars as Shaquille O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen and Mike Bibby.
"This is not about saying some players should have been here or not," Stern said.
Stern went on to say that this team was "great," and that each of the 30 NBA teams would trade its roster for this one.
"We have a great, great team here," Stern said. "I shouldn't say that. We have 12 great basketball players."
By Iverson's evaluation, the United States should have had greater basketball players, if only some of those great players had taken advantage of the opportunity.
"You need to understand that first and foremost, it's an honor to be selected to this team," he said. "It's something you should cherish for the rest of your life. And honestly, it's something that I will cherish, even without winning the gold medal. I feel good about being part of something like this. I feel like a special basketball player to be selected to a team like this."