After suffering three losses at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, including back-to-back losses in the semifinals and bronze medal game to Germany and Canada, USA Basketball is not exactly riding high into the 2024 Paris Olympics.
There has always been the expectation the player pool to choose from for the Olympics will be far superior to that for the World Cup, as star players typically see Olympic gold as worth playing through their offseason for but not the World Cup. Still, it remained to be seen how USA Basketball would fix the problems of this year’s World Cup team, particularly in the frontcourt where things were fairly dire. The prospects for American big men is pretty thin, and a couple of stars turning down the team could lead to some scrambling. The good news for Team USA is, it appears that won’t be a concern for the 2024 Olympics.
According to Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic, LeBron James is heading up a recruiting effort to get the top American stars together, as he looks to have one last ride on Team USA.
James has spoken to Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum and Draymond Green, and they are all prepared to commit as well. Separately, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox and Dallas’ Kyrie Irving also have serious interest in committing, league sources said.
While Shams and Vardon note these conversations have been going on for some time, I do like to imagine watching Dillon Brooks drop 39 points on Team USA was the last straw for James. He has not played for Team USA since 2012 and some of those stars, like Steph Curry, have never appeared in an Olympics (although Curry does have a pair of World Cup golds).
Reading through that list you notice that backcourt and wing talent shouldn’t be an issue for Team USA in the Olympics, and their biggest issue might be having to tell some guards there’s no room on the roster. One name not on that list that you would expect to be at the top of Team USA’s wishlist given how this year’s effort went is Bam Adebayo, who anchored the defense on that Tokyo gold medal squad, as well as the continued pursuit of Joel Embiid, who has a choice to make between playing for Team USA or France. If they have Davis, Green, and Adebayo or Embiid, they’d unquestionably have fixed their big man concerns from the World Cup, and surrounded by a who’s who of superstars in the backcourt and on the wing, they’d be even heavier favorites than usual.
That said, it’s easier to be excited about playing for Team USA in September when you’re starting to miss being on the court than it is in June and early July when you’re fresh off of the playoffs. All of those players listed have designs on a deep postseason run, and most of them (aside from Tatum, Fox, and Booker) are in their mid-30s. We’ll have to see how many of that group are healthy enough to commit to a summer of extra basketball in Paris, but it’s very good news for USA hoops that the nation’s top stars are at least entering this upcoming season with playing in the Olympics as one of the goals in mind.