LeBron James: ‘A Lot of Factors’ Weighing on 2020 Olympics Decision

LeBron James at the 2012 Olympics in London

Getty LeBron James at the 2012 Olympics in London

USA Basketball released its pool of players it will consider for the 2020 Olympics on Monday and, little surprise, the Lakers were well-represented. LeBron James, who appeared in the Olympics in 2004, 08 and 12 but sat out for 2016, is in the pool. So are Anthony Davis (who was on the 2012 team as a rookie) and Kyle Kuzma. More surprising are the two Lakers centers represented: Dwight Howard ( a 2008 gold-medal winner) and JaVale McGee.

“Spectacular,” James said, according to the L.A. Times. “It’s amazing. We’re very well represented with the Lake Show representing the red, white and blue. So it’s a pretty cool thing.”

Alas, just because a player is in the pool doesn’t mean he will play in the Olympics. Howard and McGee would still be longshots to be chosen for the team. But Team USA would roll out the red carpet for James—it’s just a matter of whether he wants to put in the commitment, in terms of times and physical wear-and-tear.

James’ answer on playing in 2020 has not changed over the past year: Maybe.

“It’s always predicated on: one, my body, how my body is feeling at the end of the season — I hope to make a long playoff run,” James said, according to the Times. “And then where my mind is and then where my family’s head is. So it’s a lot of factors, but my name is in the hat.”

Recruiting LeBron Was a Priority for USA Basketball

Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo has long said that James will have a priority spot on the roster if he wants it. James was one of the keys to the turnaround of USA Basketball after the program’s embarrassing third-place finish in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

James played a limited role on that team, but when he became the program’s director in 2005, Colangelo made recruiting him (along with Carmelo Anthony) his top job. Both Anthony and James played limited roles on the 2004 team, coached by Larry Brown and Colangelo worried that the experience would sour them on participating again.

He met with James at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago the following spring.

“We were supposed to meet in the lobby of the hotel at 9 a.m., and I was there a few minutes early,” Colangelo told me. “Right at 9 a.m., exactly, the double door of the elevator opens and out steps LeBron. Right on time. I started talking to him, and I was about halfway through my pitch to him, and he stopped me and said, ‘I’m in.’ Players talk to one another. That got us set up.”

Team USA has won three straight gold medals since.

NBA Finals Will Influence LeBron James’ Decision

Still, the Lakers’ standing in the league might make it difficult for James to participate. L.A. is currently on top of the Western Conference and if the Lakers can earn a place in the Finals, it’s possible James will be playing into late June. It’s a quick turnaround from the Finals to Olympic training camp in July.

The Olympics start comparatively early this year, opening on July 24 and closing August 9. That would provide NBA players whose teams don’t make deep playoff runs with plenty of time to rest and recover for 2020-21 training camp.

But players on teams that play deep into June would have very little rest time between their NBA schedules and the Olympics. James, at 35 years old, has said all along that he is cautious about that.

Back in September, James did say he was disappointed in the way Team USA finished in last year’s World Cup—in seventh place. He was uncertain then, too, about whether he would play. “I don’t know,” he said. “I would love to. I have to, I want to stay healthy as well. That’s most important.”

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