Tokyo Olympics: Full list of NBA stars competing at the Games
Though LeBron James and Steph Curry are sitting out this year's Olympics, Team USA still boasts formidable talents
The run-up to 2020 Tokyo Olympics keeps getting more exciting and controversial as the opening ceremony comes closer. With five new sporting events joining the program at Tokyo from July 23, basketball has also found a spot even though not all the finest from the NBA roster have accepted the invitation to play in the Olympics. Stars like LeBron James and Steph Curry are opting to sit out, preferring to train for the upcoming 2021-22 campaign. Utah's Donovan Mitchell has declined to play in the Olympics to fix a right ankle injury; Phoenix's Chris Paul, as well as Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, have all declined invitations to play in the Olympics.
News of this arrives amidst an already controversial Olympics, that has seen activist athletes like Gwen Berry staunchly face away from the American flag as the national anthem played. While the Olympics made history with Laurel Hubbard, the first-ever trans athlete to compete in Olympics women's event, Chelsea Wolfe's past claims of burning the US flag on the podium have also resurfaced in the wake of her selection.
With a whole lot already cooking, basketball fans are nonetheless excited as San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will be leading the US team as they attempt to bag a fourth consecutive gold medal at the Olympics. Here's a look at the 12 NBA stars who will be playing ball in this year's Olympics.
The Detroit Pistons forward will be marking his first Olympic appearance with the 2020 Tokyo Games. Grant is replacing James Harden, who was initially set to play the 2020 games but had to withdraw due to injuries. Grant made it to the team after Harden suffered a hamstring injury and had to exit during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Although he returned for Game 5, he could not save the Brooklyn Nets from being eliminated. This brought 27-year-old Grant into the games after an illustrious career of six years as a professional basketball player. At 6 feet 8, he was a 2014 draft pick and has averaged 22.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game since then.
The Chicago Bulls guard is also making his first Olympic appearance. LaVine's addition to the Team USA preliminary roster happened in March, with his post for the Sumer Games getting secured as more and more players began declining their invitation to the games. LaVine, also a 2014 draft pick who stands tall at 6 feet 5, has managed to average 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game in the 2020-21 regular season. With the games in Tokyo coming closer, LaVine reportedly wishes to see the title 'Olympic gold medalist' in his list of accomplishments.
Also marking his first Olympic appearance with the Tokyo games is Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, who averaged 17.7 points, 6.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds in the 2020-21 regular season. The 2009 draft pick has a total experience of 11 years playing professional basketball. At 31, Holiday has already won three All-Defensive Team awards, and one NBA Player of the Week award. The seasoned player is also a big Olympic hopeful, much like his Milwaukee Bucks teammate Khris Middleton.
The Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love will reportedly be playing his second Olympic games after being a member of the 2012 USA team that emerged as champions, winning 8-0 and the gold medal at the 2012 London Games. Love's season with the Cavaliers has been somewhat disappointing, with an average of just 12.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. At 6 feet 8, the 32-year-old basketball pro has been playing for 12 years in the game.
The Milwaukee Bucks forward had dressed up in red, white, and blue for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, where Team USA was eliminated after a loss to France that left everyone stunned. Middleton can however take his enthusiasm all the way to the prestigious Olympics as he marks his first-ever appearance in the games this year in Tokyo. Middleton's average stands at 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game in the 2020-21 regular season. He is also currently averaging 23.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in the playoffs. The Bucks have seen incredible post-season success, with Middleton being just the seventh player in the history of the league, to have bagged NBA title and an Olympic gold medal in the same year. The 29-year-old was a 2012 draft pick and stands at 6 feet 7.
The Miami Heat center is also representing Team USA at the Olympics for the first time. This wasn't Adebayo's first time trying to make it to the Team USA though, as he had attempted so in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, but failed to make the cut. At 23, Adebayo has three years of experience since his draft pick in 2017. The 6 feet 9 tall player averaged 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game in the 2020-21 regular season, with another 15.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in the playoffs. Unfortunately, his team was swept off in the NBA playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks.
With the highest scoring average of 19.4 points per game in the Olympics men's team, the 32-year-old pro has been 12 years in the game. At 6 feet 10, the 2009 draft pick exhibited heroics in the second round playoffs for his team, the Brooklyn Nets. Unfortunately, they fell out despite the extraordinary match that saw 48 points and a buzzer-beater to force overtime in Game 7, after a 49-17-10 triple-double in Game 5.
After beating the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoffs, the Phoenix Suns have Booker to thank as they march towards the 2021 Western Conference Finals. Booker's legacy has been compared to the likes of exemplary players like Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Marc Gasol, Lamar Odom, Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen, and he is expected to win both the NBA Finals and Olympics in the same year. At 6 feet 5, the 24-year-old, 2014 draft pick has been in the game for six years now. He made it to Team USA replacing LeBron James after missing the initial cut. Also deemed as one of the snubs for the All-NBA games, Booker has already won his first All-Star title.
The Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal is an All-NBA third-team selection. Set to play his first-ever Olympic games, Beal is also the first Wizards player ever to make it to Team USA for the Olympics. Beal helped the Wizards snag a No 8 for the NBA playoffs but ultimately lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the very first round. Beal averaged an impressive 31.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game this season. Drafted in 2012, the 28-year-old 6 foot 3 player has been a pro for eight years now.
The Boston Celtics forward, who just bagged a second consecutive All-Star team this season, was considered one of the biggest snubs for the All-NBA games. Tatum however made it up by making it to the Olympics - marking his first appearance in the games. While the Celtics beat the Wizards in the Eastern Conference tournaments, they ultimately lost to the Brooklyn Nets in the very first round, even after averaging 30.6 points per game, including a 50-point performance in Game 3. The 23-year-old, 2017 draft pick has been playing professional basketball for three years and stands at 6 foot 8.
The Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard was one of the first pros to commit to the 2020 Tokyo games. This will also mark his first-ever appearance as Team USA at the Olympics. Named an All-Star for the sixth time, Lillard also made the All-NBA second team. While the Trail Blazers lost six games to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs, Lillard averaged 34.3 points per game. The 31-year-old, 2012 draft pick has been playing for 8 years and stands at 6 foot 2.
The Golden State Warriors forward is playing for Team USA in the Olympics for a second time, having already won the gold medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Green was also a finalist for this year's NBA Defensive Player of the Year. The Warriors failed to make it to the postseason for the second consecutive season. Green has had an average of 7.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game this season. At 31, the 6 feet 6 athlete has been a professional basketball player for 8 years, since his draft in 2012.