Toward the end of the season, there were rumblings that Cleveland Cavaliers point-forward LeBron James would not participate in the 2016 Olympics in Rio for Team USA. On Thursday, those rumors became official when James' agent Rich Paul said that No. 23 informed USA Basketball that he has withdrawn his name from consideration for the upcoming Olympics, per Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon.
While many may believe that the Zika virus may have played a role in the decision, James made it known that the only reason he isn't playing for Team USA in 2016 is because he wants to rest his body heading into the 2016-17 NBA season, a campaign that he hopes will become back-to-back titles for the Cavaliers a year from now.
A source close to James said a desire to rest his body from the last championship run and prepare for what he hopes is a second one for the Cavs is his sole reason for not playing for Team USA. Items such as the Zika virus, political unrest in Brazil, or the fact that James had already played basketball in Rio -- when the Cavs traveled there in October, 2014 for an exhibition game -- were not factors.
In his three previous Olympics appearances, he has led Team USA to two gold medals (2008 and 2012) while barely cracking the rotation for the 2004 team that won a bronze medal 1. One of three players to play on three Olympic teams, the Akron, Ohio native is the all-time leading scorer (273 points) and second-best rebounder (95). He also has one of two triple-doubles in Olympic history. Along with also participating in the 2006 FIBA World Championships, James has averaged 11.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.5 steals in 24 Olympic games.
Considering the fact that he has made six consecutive Finals appearances, James admitted that he could use the rest. After leading the Cavaliers to the NBA Championship and bringing a title back to Cleveland for the first time since 1964 (for a major professional sports team), the 31-year-old has logged plenty of minutes over the years. Over his 13-year NBA career so far, he has logged 46,861 minutes, including 21,664 minutes in his last six seasons, along with another 330 minutes for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics. For comparison's sake, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is second in minutes played in that time period, with just 18,901 minutes in the last six years.
Along with James, Warriors' Stephen Curry, Thunder's Russell Westbrook, Rockets' James Harden, Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, and Clippers' Chris Paul have also decided to not partake in Rio. Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving has yet to make a decision if he will play for Team USA this fall. If Irving wants to play in Rio, Team USA all but has a guaranteed spot for him. Although James will not be participating, the 2016 Summer Olympics start on August 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Hopefully the rest he will get this summer will work in James' favor heading into the start of next season. He deserves it.
1 Seriously. How does LeBron only get 13 minutes in a crushing loss to Puerto Rico? A scoreless six minutes against Lithuania? Larry Brown deserved what he got.