LeBron James reportedly joined an NBA All-Star lineup of talent on Thursday that will not play for the United States at the Rio Olympics, while Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant will try to bring the Americans a third consecutive gold medal.
A flurry of reports ahead of next week’s announcement of the final US roster for Brazil was topped when Cleveland.com said James has told USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski that he will not play in August.
“I could use the rest,” James told the website.
James, who led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the greatest-ever NBA Finals comeback to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, cited the grind of having logged so much court time through six consecutive trips to the finals.
NBA Most Valuable Player and scoring leader Stephen Curry of Golden State said during the finals that he would not play in Rio.
Star guards Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers and James Harden of Houston also have backed out of consideration, as have San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Washington forward John Wall, Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis of New Orleans.
Joining that group Thursday were Portland’s Damian Lillard, who wants to rehabilitate a plantar fascitis injury; Utah forward Gordon Hayward and San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard.
“This was a very difficult decision. Leonard said. “It’s an honor to have been considered for the team and I hope in the future I will have the chance to represent my country.”
“I have withdrawn my name from consideration due to family obligations,” Hayward said. “My wife Robyn and I are blessed to be expecting our second child this summer.”
The pullout brings back memories of 2004, when security worries were a concern in the Athens run-up and many top names withdrew. Those who played could only muster bronze.
The roster to be named next week by USA Basketball is expected to include Oklahoma City star Durant and New York playmaker Anthony plus Indiana’s Paul George, Golden State’s Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
IRVING STILL MIGHT GO
Two other available spots could include Cleveland star guard Kyrie Irving, who played a key role alongside James in bringing the first sports title to Cleveland since 1964.
James sparked a Cleveland rally from a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven final to a stunning seventh-game triumph for the NBA crown.
James was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for a third time — only Michael Jordan has won the award more — after an unprecedented feat of leading both finals teams in every major statistic with 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 blocked shots a game.
A source told the website a desire to rest his body from the title run to better prepare his bid to defend the crown was his only reason for not playing in Rio, the Zia virus not playing a role in his decision.
James, 31, sparked the US squad of NBA stars to gold medals at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics. He is the US team’s all-time scoring leader with 273 points and second in total rebounds with 95.
He was also a reserve on the 2004 US team that settled for bronze at Athens and on the US team that finished third at the 2010 world championships in Japan.
“King” James is one of three men to play on three Olympic basketball teams and in 2012, he became one of the select few to win an NBA crown and Olympic gold in the same year.
CARMELO COULD THREE PEAT
Anthony averaged 21.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game for the Knicks and would have the chance to become the first US man with three basketball gold medals after helping the Americans take gold in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
Lowry, Jordan and Butler were also on the list of players agreeing to compete at Rio, according to SEPN, which cited unnamed sources.
Anthony, 32, said last month he was unsure of playing at Rio with Zia among several concerns.