NBA players allowed to participate at Tokyo 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 11: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat defends LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter in Game Six of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on October 11, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 11: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat defends LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the third quarter in Game Six of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on October 11, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the players' association have agreed to shorten the season to avoid an Olympic Games clash

The NBA players' association and team owners have agreed to a shortened 2020/2021 season which will see the world's best basketball players compete at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach revealed the 'excellent news' during a virtual press conference after an IOC Executive Board meeting on Wednesday (11 November). 

"We received today the very good news that the owners of the NBA teams have agreed with the Players Association on an early and shortened NBA season, starting on December 22," he said.

"This will allow the best basketball players in the world to play at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

"This is what the players want, this is what the Olympic Movement wants, and this is what many National Olympic Committees want."

No more doubts

Since Barcelona 1992, NBA players have been a staple at the Olympic Games due to a change in the eligibility rules.

In September this year, when the 2019/2020 NBA season was still on going, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had thrown doubt into the league's players being able to compete at Tokyo 2020.

At that stage the 2020/2021 season had a tentative start date of 1 December but Silver's "best guess" was that the league wouldn't start until January. However, based off the tentative start date, the 2020/2021 NBA playoffs would have started in June 2021 - the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony is set for 23 July, 2021.

It was unlikely that the league was going to pause to allow players to participate at the Games.

"There are a lot of great US players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren't competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing," Silver told CNN on 22 September.

"Obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics from other countries. That's something we're going to have to work through."

But a clash with Tokyo 2020 has now been avoided with yesterday's announcement.

The upcoming NBA season is set to begin on 22 December and will follow a 72-game schedule instead of the usual 82. It has left a relatively short break between the last game of the previous season - 11 October with the LA Lakers winning their 17th title.

Who could we see at Tokyo 2020?

Eight of the 12 men's teams set to compete at Tokyo 2020 have qualified; World Champions Spain, Nigeria, Argentina, reigning Olympic champions United States, Iran, France, Australia and hosts Japan.

The shortened NBA season now opens the doors for the likes of the United States LeBron James and James Harden to go for Olympic glory again while Australia's Patty Mills and Ben Simmons, Spain's Willy Hernangomez, Japan's HACHIMURA Rui and France's Rudy Gobert and Vincent Poirier - to name a few - could all feature at Tokyo 2020 next summer.

The remaining four spots, which will be battled out for by 24 teams, are set to be decided at the final four Qualifying Tournaments set to be played from 22 June to 4 July 2021 after being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International basketball Federation (FIBA) reconfirmed their commitment to these qualifiers being played in "bubbles" to ensure the safety of everyone involved earlier this month at a Central Board meeting.

Originally announced in September, all games will be played in a "secure environment instead of home and away matches" which will be in "agreement of the host public health authorities and in compliance with FIBA health protocols".