LeBron James ready to commit to 2024 Olympic team, recruiting fellow stars: Sources

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USA's Lebron James in action against Australia's Matt Dellavedova (right) and Joe Ingles (left) in the mens quarterfinal basketball match at the North Greenwich Arenas on day twelve of the London 2012 Olympic Games.   (Photo by EMPICS Sport - PA Images via Getty Images)

Less than a year out from the 2024 Olympics, and with the USA coming off a disappointing fourth place at the FIBA World Cup Sunday, with only three current All-Stars and no one with prior men’s national team experience on the roster, those old Paris predictions are apparently closer to coming true.

LeBron James, a three-time Olympian, two-time gold medalist and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, has so strong an interest in one more Olympics that he is ready to commit for next summer and has also called multiple stars to essentially recruit them to join him with USAB in Paris, multiple league sources told The Athletic.

James has spoken to Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum and Draymond Green, and they are all prepared to commit as well. Separately, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Portland’s Damian LillardSacramento’s De’Aaron Fox and Dallas’ Kyrie Irving also have serious interest in committing, league sources said.

James’ effort started well before the USA World Cup team, led by Anthony Edwards and Mikal Bridges, lost at the World Cup and was not related to whether this summer’s team won or lost. While the American national team has struggled at the last two World Cups, the program has won four consecutive golds at the Olympics.

James, who has not played for Team USA since the 2012 Games in London and will turn 39 in December, and Durant, a three-time Olympian and gold medalist who will be 35 by next summer, are viewing the Paris games as a “last dance” with USA Basketball, sources said.

Curry, who will be 36, has never played in an Olympics but won two World Cups in 2010 and 2014 with the American team and is viewing next summer similarly. James, Durant and Curry have spoken to one another about one last USA run, together, sources said.

Tatum, Green and Lillard were all gold medalists in Tokyo, and Durant was the MVP of that team.

USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill is aware of the interest from James and of other well-established American stars but declined further comment to The Athletic.

Generally, numerous USA officials readily acknowledge that not only will the Paris team look different from the one that just finished the World Cup, but the next iteration was likely to come with considerably more star power.

Hill spent last NBA season having conversations with players on a dual tract: one to fill the 2023 World Cup roster and another to begin recruiting for Paris.

After the Americans were knocked out of title contention last week by Germany, USA coach Steve Kerr was asked about the Americans’ new trend of roster turnover from summer to summer.

Kerr said “part of the deal with USAB is you pass the baton on to the next coaching staff, the next group of players,” and, “we’re unique in that we have a deep talent pool and a lot of very worthy players and I think those players and coaches all deserve to have the honor of wearing this USA jersey.”

If these older NBA stars indeed play for Kerr next summer in Paris, it would be a case of passing the baton backward.

James played for Team USA from 2004 to 2008 and returned for the London Games. In addition to Durant’s three Olympiads, he also was part of the 2010 world championship team. Green is a two-time gold medalist. Davis won gold with James in 2012 and a world title with Curry in 2014. Tatum won gold in 2021 and was on the 2019 World Cup team.

But rampant speculation and near commitments — even if the players mentioned above were to emerge on NBA media days and declare themselves “in” for 2024 — do not necessarily mean these more established stars will be in Paris.

For instance, following the 2019 World Cup, in which the Americans finished a disappointing seventh and sent a roster of players who at the time were not considered “A” listers (Tatum didn’t reach that level until after the World Cup), numerous stars, including James, expressed interest at the start of their NBA training camps of playing for Team USA at the Tokyo Games.

Among them, only Durant followed through and was on the floor in 2021. Granted, the Tokyo Games were postponed a year due to COVID-19, and pandemic protocols were still in place when those Olympics ultimately took place, but there is no question that what an American star says in October can change by the time July rolls around.

The Olympics start July 26, 2024, and Team USA is expected to have a full training camp and preseason tour to perhaps multiple countries before arriving in France. If any of the interested superstars make a deep playoff run, they would be making a massive commitment of their time and their bodies following a grueling season. James, Davis, Durant, Curry and even Lillard have all dealt with extensive injuries over the last several years.

Finally, the first part of the Olympic basketball tournament is not in Paris. It’s public knowledge, but few NBA stars may realize that the preliminary games will be played in Lille, France, a 1-hour, 40-minute train ride north from Paris.

The medal rounds will be played in Paris, but romanticizing a “last dance” for some USA Basketball legends in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is only a half-truth. There will be nights spent in the industrial town of Lille, which isn’t all that far from Belgium.

Because of all these factors, Hill, Kerr (who coaches Curry and Green on the Warriors) and longtime general manager Sean Ford would need to continue conversations with all the players on the radar for 2024.

The Americans no longer produce an official “pool” of USA-eligible players and now build the national team through invitation only. They won’t go out until well after the NBA All-Star break, and in some cases much later, as part of it depends on if any player’s commitment is contingent upon an early playoff exit.

Hypothetically speaking, if James and every player he’s contacted were on the Paris roster, it would leave Team USA with six roster spots to fill. If Booker and Lillard were added, that would leave four spots.

Bam Adebayo, a 2021 Olympic gold medalist who nearly played for the USA this summer, is widely considered a strong candidate for Paris.

Desmond Bane, a big, rugged, two-way guard whose style is perfect for FIBA, would have been on the World Cup team if not for offseason foot surgery. He remains a possibility.

The prospect of persuading reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid to A.) play in an international tournament; and B.) do so for Team USA instead of Team France, remains in play.

And then there is the matter of considering players from the World Cup team. Edwards, a shooting guard, is Team USA’s leading scorer. When asked last week if he wanted to play at the Olympics, he said “Yeah, I would love to, for sure.”

Bridges, a wing defender, said “I think I’ll never say no. It’s an honor.”

And finally, there is the matter of building a roster suitable for the international game. The Americans have had no trouble doing it for the Olympics, although the Tokyo Games included a loss to France and a nail-biter win over the French in the gold medal game, and all sorts of trouble with the World Cup.

The USA has needed more post players to make an impact than have stepped forward. The Americans had two 7-footers this summer in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Walker Kessler, but Jackson largely struggled as the only big in a four-guard lineup (he only averaged 2.8 rebounds per game), and Kessler barely played.

The size disadvantage was so glaring this summer, that in games against Montenegro, Lithuania and Germany the U.S. was outscored on second-chance points 64-13.

So when Kerr was asked over the weekend about building future rosters (he wasn’t asked specifically about James or the players he called), he was questioned if the lesson from the World Cup is the American team has to add more size.

“I think it’s a worthwhile point of discussion, but the discussion has to go to, ‘OK, then who is that?” Kerr said. “You can’t just say, we’re going to have size for size’s sake. You have to have players who are going to help you win, and you have to determine who those guys are. It’s not just the size, it’s the way the game is played.

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