Following Team USA’s underwhelming fourth-place finish in the recently concluded FIBA World Cup, LeBron James made it publicly known that he is once again interested in suiting up for the red, white, and blue for next year’s Paris Olympics.
James, who suited up for the USA in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics, is going to be 39 years old by then. Despite his age, there is no question that he remains one of the best players in the game today and it is more likely than not, barring an untimely injury, that he will still be among the world’s elite come the 2024 Olympics.
It has been additionally reported that James has convinced three-time Olympian Kevin Durant and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry to join him on next year’s team. Curry has actually never participated in the Olympics, but has already suited up for the USA in the 2010 and 2014 editions of the FIBA World Cup.
Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, Draymond Green, Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, De’Aaron Fox, and Kyrie Irving have also indicated their interest, setting the stage for yet another blockbuster Team USA roster for the Olympic games.
One curious thing about the players who have shown their desire to play in the 2024 Olympics though is that most of them are already at the tailend of their respective prime years. Among those mentioned above, only Tatum (25), Booker (26), and Fox (25) are not yet in their 30s.
While James seems to be setting up his participation in next year’s Olympics as a Team USA version of “The Last Dance”, it could very well mark the final chapter of his country’s dominance in the international basketball arena as well.
Even in the NBA, the days of American superiority are long gone.
The last five NBA Most Valuable Player awards have been won by international players, highlighting the diversity in today’s game. Last season’s All-NBA First Team had only one American-born player, Tatum, out of the five who were voted in. The NBA All-Star Game reflected this trend too as six out of the 10 starters were international players.
Once James, Durant, and Curry are out of the picture, it is likely that the unofficial title of “Best player in the world” will be contested purely by international players. Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and potentially Victor Wembanyama are all expected to stake their claim with players such as Tatum, Booker, and Anthony Edwards merely on the outside looking in.
It is practically cast in stone that the 2024 Olympics will be the last one that Team USA can win using their current model where they send a different team from tournament to tournament. Gone are the days when the USA had an overwhelming talent advantage and they must begin introducing some continuity to their teams if they are to remain competitive on the international stage.
One thing that could work in the USA’s favor is if the reigning NBA MVP Embiid decides to suit up for them instead of the host team France, but even his commitment is a mere “Nice to have” at this point with the rapidly improving international landscape.
Zooming back to next year’s Paris Olympics though, the participation of James in the 2024 Olympic games is guaranteed to be a blockbuster event along the lines of the 1992 Dream Team and 2008 Redeem Team.
However, it might not exactly be the Avengers team-up that James had in mind given the changing landscape of basketball. Instead, it may look more like something along the lines of The Expendables or some other movie where the old timers come together for one last hurrah.