The biggest NBA American stars, like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid, are part of a 41-player pool from which USA Basketball will select 12 to send to the Paris Olympics.
Those four, as well as Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker, are bona fide stars who have said they would play in the Summer Olympics for Team USA and are mentioned on the list of players under consideration. So long as they are healthy and remain committed, three sources told The Athletic, these six U.S. stars are considered locks to make the team.
But the full list released Tuesday by USA Basketball also includes players like Derrick White, Austin Reaves, Cam Johnson, Bobby Portis, Duncan Robinson and Aaron Gordon. None has ever played in an NBA All-Star Game.
Earlier this month, The Athletic reported that USAB would release a list of potential 2024 Olympians, in part so program officials could stay engaged with a wider pool of talent in the event the heaviest hitters get injured or otherwise decide not to play, after publicly saying they would.
In all, 28 players who have represented the U.S. at an Olympics or FIBA World Cup, 23 who have won gold in either event and the entire 12-man roster from the 2023 FIBA World Cup team that finished fourth in the Philippines are on the list.
“The United States boasts unbelievable basketball talent and I am thrilled that many of the game’s superstars have expressed interest in representing our country at the 2024 Olympic Summer Games,” Grant Hill, managing director for the national team, said in the news release. “It is a privilege to select the team that will help us toward the goal of once again standing atop the Olympic podium. This challenging process will unfold over the next several months as we eagerly anticipate the start of national team activity.”
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In addition to announcing its player pool, USAB also said it would host Team Canada in an exhibition game on July 10 in Las Vegas. The Canadians, also expected to send a roster of NBA pros — with at least a few stars — beat the Americans for third place at the World Cup last summer.
When it comes to building an Olympic team, the Americans, yes, want the experience, star power, proven ability to win, and gravitas that come with players of James, Durant and Curry’s ilk. But they also need size throughout the roster and players who can defend, especially on the perimeter and shoot from the outside.
Beyond all of that, Team USA will need at least a few role players who won’t mind being asked to take on jobs that don’t fall to them on their NBA teams. That is why, outside of the two Dream Teams, each U.S. Olympic team with NBA players contained at least a couple of players who were not considered superstars.
Durant, who led the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics to the program’s fourth-consecutive Olympic gold, is the most decorated USA basketball men’s player ever, with three Olympic golds and a World Cup title. James has two Olympic golds and a bronze but hasn’t appeared in an Olympics in 12 years. Chris Paul, who is also on the list, also won two golds.
Curry has never played in an Olympics but won two World Cups with the Americans. Embiid, born in Cameroon, is the reigning NBA MVP and has never played for any team in an international competition, but in 2022 obtained his U.S. passport and announced in October he would play for the U.S. at the Paris Games.
Other players on the list, like Tatum and Booker, who have won a single Olympic gold include Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, James Harden, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard.
Tatum, Booker, Adebayo, Holiday, and Lillard all joined Durant on the last U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Tokyo.
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Players on the 2024 list who, like White and Reaves, Johnson and Portis, have played in a World Cup, but not an Olympics, are: Paolo Banchero, Mikal Bridges, Jaylen Brown, Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, Josh Hart, Tyrese Haliburton, Brandon Ingram, Jaren Jackson Jr., Walker Kessler and Donovan Mitchell.
This brings us to the potential first-timers with the men’s national team. There are a few big names, like multi-time All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Trae Young. Jarrett Allen, Desmond Bane, Scottie Barnes, Alex Caruso, De’Aaron Fox, Aaron Gordon, Tyler Herro, Chet Holmgren and Duncan Robinson also have never played in an Olympics or World Cup.
(Photo: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)