The NBA will call for the Olympic basketball competition to become an Under-23 tournament from 2016 onwards, potentially ending the presence of the sport’s established superstars.

It is 20 years since professionals became eligible to play in the Games in a deal brokered by current NBA chief David Stern and the then-FIBA secretary-general Boris Stankovic.

The profile achieved by the USA’s Dream Team which took gold in Barcelona is still credited with sparking a growth in the sport across the world, above all in Spain, who will provide the biggest threat to the Americans in London this summer.

But under pressure from several team owners who fear burn-out for their highly paid stars, Stern plans to put forward proposals to model Olympic basketball along the same lines as football – with full strength teams sent only to the four-yearly World Cup.

“Owners have raised repeatedly the issue of our players playing in essence year round when you add the Olympics … to our World Cup of Basketball,” said NBA  deputy commissioner Adam Silver at a press conference ahead of the Draft lottery on Wednesday night.

“So when you have the Olympics, the World Cup of Basketball, we are taking a very close look at whether it makes sense from an NBA standpoint and a global basketball standpoint for the top players to be playing at that level on a year round basis, and somewhere (every) summer.”

Although FIBA are keen to restore their newly-renamed World Cup to pre-eminence, it would leave the Olympics as a mere shadow of its current self.

Hence, the plans – to be discussed after the London Olympics – would likely meet with fierce opposition from FIBA, as well as national federations who rely heavily on the presence of their leading lights on international duty to generate both revenue and profile.

“In some ways, because of a certain tradition that’s out there, the players that have it the most difficult and the pressure is the greatest on is the non-American players – that there’s an expectation,” said Stern.

“And if we change the rules so that they can only be expected to play in two Olympics, I think that would relieve them more than they will say publicly, and their teams. And that’s an idea, and as Adam said, that’s good to discuss with the (competition) committee.”

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