by Julian Spivey
The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 117-97 on its opening night of the NBA season on Wednesday, Oct. 20 despite the in-house suspension of All-Star guard Ben Simmons, who’s turned into the biggest man-baby in the history of the National Baseball Association.
A dramatic saga that’s been going on between Simmons and the 76ers since the end of the 2020-21 season when he demanded to be traded by the team seemed to come to a head on Tuesday, Oct. 19 when Simmons was kicked out of practice by 76ers head coach Doc Rivers after the three-time All-Star, considered one of the best two-way players in the league, refused to practice.
During the practice session when Rivers asked Simmons to join a defensive drill the guard refused to do so and then when Rivers asked again, again Simmons refused. Rivers then told Simmons he should go home, and Simmons dropped the basketball in his hand and left. That’s right, Simmons threw the same type of tantrum you’d expect from children not getting their way.
Shortly after this incident in practice the team suspended Simmons for Wednesday’s opening game and there’s no telling if he will ever suit up again for the 76ers. Simmons was previously fined $1.4 million for failing to show up for four preseason games and numerous practices, workouts and meetings, according to ESPN. He missed roughly another $227,000 for the opening night suspension.
Rivers told the media after he dismissed Simmons from the team’s practice: “I thought he was a distraction today. I didn’t think he wanted to do what everyone else was doing.”
It’s clear that Simmons’ tantrum is a tactic to force the hand of the 76ers to trade him – and give him what he wants. But the 76ers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey should stand his ground and refuse to deal Simmons. Simmons needs to be taught a lesson by the 76ers that you can’t go around acting like a man-baby and expect to have your way. In these situations, the players almost always get their way and I think it’s time for a franchise to put its foot down. The 76ers should continue to suspend Simmons and withhold his pay – if such a thing is allowed by the NBA Players’ Association. This tactic might keep the circus surrounding the team alive, but if he’s simply sent home and treated like he doesn’t exist maybe it won’t be such a distraction for the team. The 76ers certainly didn’t seem to miss him in uniform on Wednesday night.
The 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid, the actual best player on the team, told the media after Simmons’ practice tantrum: “At the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody.”
It’s quite surprising to me that Simmons teammates haven’t had a physical “come to Jesus” with him, but they simply don’t seem to want to have anything to do with him period.
The NBA is no stranger now to selfish superstars with the Brooklyn Nets going through something somewhat similar with seven-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving being unable to play in home games because he won’t get the Covid-19 vaccine and the city mandates it and is being withheld from road games because the team didn’t want the distraction. He, however, will be paid for the missed road games since it’s the team’s decision.
At least Irving feels like he’s standing for something, even as misguided and wrongheaded as it is. Simmons is just behaving like a toddler and should be treated as such by his organization. Go sit in the corner Baby Ben until you’re ready to act your age.
by Julian Spivey
Superstar: Chicago Sky
The Chicago Sky defeated the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday, Oct. 17 to win its first WNBA Championship in its 16-year history. The Sky defeated the Mercury 3-1 in the best-of-5 series.
The Sky got big performances in the clinching game from a couple of hometown heroes on the roster: Candace Parker, who came over before the season after more than a decade with the Los Angeles Sparks and scored 16 points with 13 rebounds and five assists in the clincher to win her second career title and Allie Quigley, a former DePaul star, who led the Sky with 26 points and hit five 3-pointers. Kahleah Copper was named MVP of the WNBA Finals scoring 17 points per game over the four-game series. Cooper had a big breakout season for the Sky making her first career All Star game after not playing a whole lot over the first four seasons of her career.
The only quibble I have with this is that the clinching game of the WNBA Finals was held on a Sunday afternoon during NFL season and as a result likely won’t have been seen by as many eyes as should have seen it. If the WNBA is going to continue its growth, it’s going to need its championship games in primetime. It needs to work with its television partners on this.
Bonehead: MLB Umpire Gabe Morales
The National League Division Series between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, the two best teams in Major League Baseball this season by record, was a terrific series that came down to a nightmare ending in a deciding fifth game due to a massive mistake by first base umpire Gabe Morales on a check-swing by Giants batter Wilmer Flores when he said Flores went around and struck out. Replay on the telecast showed Flores wasn’t even closing to going halfway on his swing. Honestly, I think it would need to be an obvious swing for the umpire to call a strike in that situation when you have the two best teams in baseball fighting for their postseason life.
The biggest game of the year simply shouldn’t come down to an umpire’s call on a non-reviewable play. And that’s another bonehead thing – this should be a reviewable play. If it had been the game would’ve gone on for at least one more pitch and likely would’ve ended without controversy. This postseason has shown on multiple occasions that the game needs to investigate some rulebook and review changes.
by Julian Spivey
Bonehead of the Week: Major League Baseball Rule 5.05 (a)(8)
A baseball rule so obscure that many players, coaches, longtime journalists and fans didn’t even know existed (and shouldn’t exist) cost the Tampa Bay Rays at least one run in the 13th inning of Sunday (Oct. 10) night’s American League Division Series Game 3 between the Rays and the Boston Red Sox. It may have even cost them the game.
In the top of the 13th with Yandy Diaz on first base and two outs Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier hit a deep fly ball to right-center field at Boston’s Fenway Park, the oldest and possibly most unique ballpark in Major League Baseball. The ball bounced off the short wall in right-center then hit the ground and ricocheted off Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe and then went over the fence. Diaz was running on the pitch and was likely to score the go-ahead run. Kiermaier would’ve at the very least had a double, but possibly a triple.
Umpires immediately signaled a ground-rule double, which is typically seen whenever a batted ball bounces over the fence on its own or in some cases gets stuck underneath a wall or even in the case of Chicago’s ivy-covered outfield walls of Wrigley Field gets lost in the ivy. But I’d never (and obviously many others hadn’t either) seen a ground-rule double ruled when a fielder deflected a ball – willingly or unintentionally – over the wall. It’s something that frankly isn’t possible in many ballparks due to the walls being much higher than at this portion of Fenway Park.
Based on the Major League Baseball rulebook the umpires made the right call on this play so they’re not at fault one bit. My bonehead of the week is Rule 5.05 (a)(8) of the MLB rulebook, which states “any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases.”
Essentially the Rays were negatively affected by this rule when Renfroe made a defensive miscue. Yep, the Red Sox fielder made a mistake and it hurt the offensive team. Dumb, right? In my view this should’ve been an error on Renfroe, and I believe both runners should’ve been able to score. At the very least Diaz, running on the pitch, should’ve been awarded home plate.
MLB needs to look at this rule in the offseason. At the very least the umpires should be awarded discretion at where to place the runners. It shouldn’t just be an automatic two bases per runner. I also wouldn’t mind seeing that fence in Fenway Park heightened, but I know that may be heresy to some traditionalists when it comes to the 109-year old ballpark.
The Rays failed to score a run and the Red Sox won on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 13th inning by catcher Christian Vazquez. The Red Sox would clinch the series the next night.
Superstar of the Week: Texas A&M College Football Team
The University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team has dominated college football over the last decade winning five championships going back to 2011. The team averages basically one title every two years. The team had only lost 11 games over the last 10 seasons and was a perfect 13-0 last season. So, beating Alabama is a pretty freakin’ big deal.
In the spring Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, a former national championship winning coach with Florida State University, proclaimed his team would beat Alabama during coach Nick Saban’s career. I’m not sure he realized his promise would be fulfilled so quickly.
In a thrilling game on Saturday (Oct. 9) the Texas A&M Aggies handed Alabama its first loss since 2019 (snapping a 19-game winning streak) on a last-second 28-yard field goal by kicker Seth Small.
It kind of came as a shock for Texas A&M to beat the No. 1 ranked team in the country and the best in the SEC Conference as the Aggies had already lost its first two SEC matchups of the season in consecutive weeks to Arkansas and Mississippi State.
The Aggies thrilling and surprising upset of Alabama happened to come on Coach Fisher’s 56th birthday. That’s quite the impressive birthday gift from his team.
by Julian Spivey
I began watching NASCAR during the 2001 season, so this season was my milestone 20th as a NASCAR fan. I’ve seen some of the greatest races in the sport’s history, attended multiple races at four different tracks thus far and had the opportunity to hang out in the garage area at Kansas Speedway in October of 2015 during one of my all-time favorite driver Jeff Gordon’s final races. Hanging in the garage area during a NASCAR weekend is my all-time favorite in-person sports memory and I’m sure it’s a dream for every NASCAR fan.
There’s been a lot of good in the sport in my 20 years following it and there’s been some bad. But the part of being a NASCAR fan I’ve always despised is when somebody who doesn’t know much about the sport asks me with a questioning tone in their voice: “how can you watch NASCAR?” That question is often followed with a follow-up about the sport being boring, which I always retort with “every sport has boring, and exciting events and NASCAR is no different.” But often people will follow up with questions about it being a “redneck” or “ignorant” or even “racist” sport. I usually comeback with a response about how sports can’t be racist. Folks within it can be, but the sport itself is no more racist than any other and by that, I mean it’s not because as I just said sports can’t be racist.
But there have been moments over the years, really the last few, that have made it harder to defend the sport. President Donald Trump attended the Daytona 500 at the start of the 2020 season and I was disgusted by that. Presidents have attended NASCAR races before, but this one felt different. It was just a conservative or a liberal thing, but a “this guy is a horrible person” thing. Also, during the 2020 season came the response to Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., the only black driver in the sport’s top series, having Black Lives Matter on his car (which was truly a heroic move on his part given the political and likely ideological beliefs within the sport and its fan-base) and then the mistaken hate crime of a potential noose being found in his garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway. The reception from many fans toward Wallace has been poor – he’s probably the most booed driver on the circuit since then – and has led me to see a lot of bad things about the fan-base that were almost certainly always there, but I hadn’t seen with my own eyes.
I hadn’t been to a NASCAR race since 2015 until attending the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 5. There wasn’t any reason for my five-plus year gap in attending races, just didn’t have the time, etc., but it just so happened to coincide with me not attending a NASCAR race during President Trump’s term in the White House.
I could tell just by watching the world in the time between 2015-2021 that folks had become more brazen and former President Trump was a major factor in this happening. The world is less civil than it used to be. I think former President Trump played a major role in that. If you’re a conservative I’m sure, you’ll probably disagree if you’ve made it this far. Thankfully when I attended Darlington last month, in the heart of Trump country, things weren’t too bad – but seeing certain things like fans wearing shirts saying “Fuck Joe Biden” made me feel a little bit less welcome in the NASCAR environment. Honestly just being a confessed liberal (even if it’s something that’s not tattooed on my forehead) I always felt a bit of an outcast at races.
Saturday, Oct. 2 should’ve been a great day for NASCAR. The Camping World Truck Series race earlier in the afternoon had been one by a first-time winner Tate Fogelman for an underfunded race team in an exciting finish, that unfortunately ended with him wrecking and having to go to the infield care center in an ambulance, instead of Victory Lane. The Xfinity Series race ended in the early evening a few laps earlier than scheduled when darkness approached the track and the leader of the race, Brandon Brown, also became a first-time winner for an underfunded team. Brown, who’s given his all to have a successful team, put on one helluva celebration, but when NBC Sports went to interview him what should’ve been a terrific moment for the sport was hijacked by fans in the grandstands just a few feet away from the interview with a loud and obnoxious “Fuck Joe Biden” chant – which has apparently been quite popular at some college football stadiums, as well, during the early part of the season – which is just a massive black eye for NASCAR.
The chant, which was later scrubbed technologically by NASCAR for its social media from the victory interview, just feeds into the stereotypes the sport has – those I’ve been fighting against for two decades. It’s not that I believe politics should be kept out of sports (although many NASCAR fans sticking up for these jerks chanting this vile thing do always cry about keeping them out of sports). There have been moments where I’ve approved of it – earlier I called Wallace heroic for his BLM stance. To me this Biden chant wasn’t just political, but more proof of a lack of civility in our society.
It’s been well over 24 hours since the chant during the post-race interview and as far as I’ve seen neither NASCAR nor NBC Sports has released a comment about it. I think that’s a bad move from the sport that frankly made a lot of ground in the last few years when it comes to trying to move the sport into the future and gain viewership, in general and with newer demographics.
Now I’m not going to stop watching NASCAR over this – that would be an overreaction like what some conservative fans did with football players kneeling in the NFL or basketball players protesting games over police brutality in the NBA. It wouldn’t do anything but take potential enjoyment away from myself. Also, I believe in the Kris Kristofferson lyric: “don’t let the bastards get you down.” So, I’m looking forward to watching the Talladega Cup Series race on Monday that was postponed from Sunday due to rain.
But I am sick of defending the sport when sometimes it seems many fans who follow it are frankly disgusting people. So, in the future when I’m asked how I can watch NASCAR I’ll probably stick to the “sports can’t be racist” line, but if asked about the fans I’ll probably have to adopt a “many of them are exactly what you think they are.”
by Julian Spivey
Bonehead of the Week: Devin Williams (Milwaukee Brewers, MLB)
Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams is our biggest bonehead in sports this week, in a week particularly full of boneheads in sports with NBA stars like Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins and Bradley Beal apparently turning into experts on why Covid vaccines aren’t necessary. But it’s Williams, the 2020 National League Reliever of the Year and Rookie of the Year, who most impacted his team with his idiocy this week when he broke his throwing hand while punching a wall after the Brewers National League Central Division clinching celebration on Sunday, Sept. 26. One of the most devastating relievers in baseball Williams finishes his season 8-2 out of the bullpen with a 2.50 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 54 innings of work. His stupidity will be a major blow to the Brewers postseason chances. He told the press “If I could take it back. I would.” No shit, dude, no shit. All his teammates, the front office and fans of the Brewers should be livid at this guy.
Superstar of the Week: Justin Tucker (Baltimore Ravens, NFL)
It’s not often kickers in football have a shot at being deemed “superstar” of the week, but Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens isn’t a normal kicker and his NFL record 66-yard field goal this past weekend against the Detroit Lions. It broke Matt Prater (of the Denver Broncos) old record by two-yards, after the previous record by New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey (later tied by Jason Elam of the Broncos) had stood for more than 40 years. As the New York Times published this week, Tucker’s new record may last quite a while because teams simply don’t try really long field goals that often and even with modern technology and stronger kickers the record is only nine-feet longer now than it was more than half a century ago. Oh, by the way, we failed to mention that Tucker’s record-breaking kick against the Lions was also a game-winner as time expired, so he had all that extra anxiety on his mind when walking out on the field for the attempt. It ended up being his 50th consecutive made field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime. Kickers rarely make the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, but Tucker just may end up their one day. Maybe they should just bronze his leg in lieu of a bust?
by Julian Spivey
The first thing I saw when I awoke on Monday, Sept. 27 when scrolling through my Twitter feed was a video from the Brooklyn Nets media day in which comedian/television legend David Letterman, posing as a journalist for the defunct Basketball Digest, asked NBA superstar Kevin Durant, recently ranked by ESPN as the best active player in the league, a serious of hilarious questions.
There were two things about this video, which only lasts about a minute-and-a-half, that I truly loved. The first is simply Letterman himself. The dude is one of my comedy heroes and his wacky, sarcastic sense of humor fits perfectly for a sports press conference setting. The second thing I really enjoyed is I couldn’t and still cannot tell (and haven’t seen anywhere to confirm) if Durant knew who Letterman was or what was going on (as hard as it is for me to imagine one not knowing Letterman). Durant, who can be overly-serious at times, seems to be a bit agitated by at least some of the non-sensical questions tossed at him by the comedy legend.
The two questions that truly cracked me up are when Letterman asked how Durant got the nickname “K.D.” and watching Durant answer it in all sincerity, while seeming slightly put off. The last question about whether “playing the Pelicans makes Durant giggle” is also terrific, as it elicits a bit of a giggle from Durant and Pelicans truly is one of the worst nicknames of any professional sports team and deserves some light mockery.
What I truly enjoyed most of the quick clip of Letterman attending the Nets media day is that he genuinely seems to be enjoying his retirement. It’s hard to believe, but it’s now been more than six years since he signed off as long-time host of the CBS late night talk show ‘Late Show.’ Though “retirement” may not be quite the proper word as he’s hosted multiple seasons of an interview series for Netflix called “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman,” which has received two Emmy nominations and I believe will have a fourth season.
Among other things Letterman has enjoyed seeing leaving his full-time television gig are co-owning his IndyCar Series team, which saw his driver Takuma Sato win the Indianapolis 500 in 2020, and spending quality time with his son, Harry.
Even though it was just a quick moment of humor at a usually docile pre-season sports media day the Letterman/Durant exchange truly reminded me how much I miss having Letterman’s sense of humor in my life. Letterman briefly stepping into the shoes of a sports journalist reminded me of some of his best and most outrageous late night bits, like when he took over the drive-thru window at a Taco Bell. It’s the kind of “man-on-the-street” humor that a quick-witted comedian just kills, and I really wish (though I suspect he has little to no interest in doing) that he would do something like this in a more regular and recorded output. Letterman making fun of serious things that shouldn’t be taken seriously is something I need more of in my life.
by Julian Spivey
In 20 years watching the sport of NASCAR I had never seen a bigger shitshow than the end of this past weekend’s inaugural Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
It went from infuriating to borderline hilarious quickly but was a blackeye upon the sport.
Most of the race was fine, nothing too special, especially with Kyle Larson stinking up the show in the third and final stage of the race with his dominance, but then with about five laps to go all hell broke loose.
Shortly after a restart on lap 77 the No.19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Martin Truex Jr. ran over a curb in Turn 6 of the racetrack sending debris, likely from his car but also from the curb, flying across the track. NASCAR officials failed to throw a caution for the debris and on the next lap the hell broke loose when the fourth place car, the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of William Byron drove over the same curb, now damaged, and spun through the grass and into a tire barrier. The fifth place No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Kyle Busch did the same. Behind them the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford of Joey Logano piled into the tire barrier the hardest of all the cars. The No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet of Daniel Suarez, the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Christopher Bell and the No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Preece would all do the same. All in all, about 10 cars wrecked or suffered damage doing the exact same thing – driving over the damaged curb.
The curb had been run over plenty of times over much of the race and was even repaired at least once before during the race, but I can’t help but feeling most of the problem is the drivers hitting the curb more so than the curb being there. The curb is there to dictate the driving line through the turn, so the drivers don’t cut the turn short and use it basically as a straightaway. It’s not intended to be hit, but drivers have figured out that they can run a bit faster through the area of the track by essentially putting a wheel over it and cutting it a bit.
So, I’m mostly blaming the drivers here for hitting an object meant to be a barrier and not the racing surface, but also must acknowledge – once again – NASCAR’s failure to throw the caution when Truex’s car initially damaged the curb and threw debris upon the track. It’s one of several inconsistent and head-scratching officiating moments from the sport this season.
After the 10-car incident NASCAR removed the damaged curb, which effectively changed the course from the 90 or more percent of the event that had already been run, but honestly what else could or should they have done as they were merely preparing for a two-lap shootout finish. While NASCAR removed the damaged curb, they left another long horizontal curb that was to the side of it on the track. I knew it would be the single dumbest thing I’d seen in the sport in a long time if a driver were to hit that piece, which was truly a decent distance away from the intended racing surface, but I also told my wife Aprille, who was watching the race with me, “somebody is going to hit that, you just wait and see, the idiots [I think it was a more colorful name] can’t help themselves.”
Sure, enough the green flag is thrown, the field comes around to Turn 6 again and Michael McDowell in his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford is the idiot who basically uses this piece of curbing as a ramp to wreck himself and a few others behind him.
What is NASCAR supposed to do at this point with the Indy road course track?
Are they supposed to just remove any curbing anywhere near the racing surface so that drivers don’t hit it? If the sport does this, it changes the way the track is driven and makes it easier. Other series, including IndyCar the day before, have competed in races at the track without similar issues. It just seems the drivers in NASCAR are the idiotic ones who can’t figure it out.
Anyway, I’ll be shocked if the race has curbing at Turn 6 next year after what we saw on Sunday (August 15), but I don’t believe the sport should make changes – make the drivers learn the track the way it’s supposed to be driven. They need to treat this curb as if it were a wall and you may well end your day in the garage if you hit it.
Following these two incredibly dumb cautions that took more than an hour to clean up, more dumbassery would continue as the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Chase Briscoe was forced off the track on the final restart and drove through the grass and ended up back on the track in first place. He was penalized by NASCAR for cutting the course – something I don’t really think he should’ve been penalized for because he was forced off track and didn’t do it intentionally to gain an advantage. Either way it would’ve been a controversial call for NASCAR. Then after NASCAR penalized Briscoe he spun out the race leader Denny Hamlin, in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, in a move that seemed intentional to me, but he would deny any intention in post-race comments to Hamlin and the media. After this melee A.J. Allmendinger, who’s not a full-time driver in the Cup Series, would take the lead in his No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet and go on to win his second career Cup Series race and his first since a win at Watkins Glen International in 2014.
This race was simply not a good look for NASCAR, though I was absolutely shocked to see that 60 percent of fans in a weekly poll held by The Athletic’s Jeff Gluck on Twitter said the road course event at Indy was a “good race.” Maybe they let most of the event overtake what happened at the end or maybe they were just entertained by total chaos.
It’s great seeing baseball back in the Olympic games for the first time since 2008 in Beijing, it truly is great.
However, there’s one thing glaringly obvious when watching the Olympic action on the diamond. This is far from the best the world of baseball has to offer and the Olympics are supposed to be the best of the best competing for gold.
Baseball is struggling for its future. A 2019 study done by Optimum Sports showed that the average of fans who tune in to nationally televised baseball games is 57. That mean’s the future for baseball is bleak if the sport doesn’t do things to help gain a new and younger audience.
One way to potentially gain an audience would be getting the best athletes in the sport into the Olympic games. Now it’s already been announced that baseball (and softball) will not be competing in the 2024 Paris games. That’s truly unfortunate, but baseball is not a very popular game in Europe, which led to the sport being eliminated from the Olympics. It was brought back in 2020 for the Tokyo games because of its mass popularity in Japan. It’s not official yet, but there’s hope that the sport will return to the 2028 games in Los Angeles.
Major League Baseball must do everything it can to get big leaguers to those 2028 games. The sport needs the potentially different audience and for baseball to continue being in the Olympic games, as the global sport it is it probably needs more known faces than Tyler Austin and Bubba Starling.
Nothing against the current Team USA baseball roster, it’s the best the country could do without MLB players being available, but it’s a mixture of minor leaguers (most who aren’t even top prospects) and MLB has-beens like Todd Frazier, Edwin Jackson and David Robertson wanting to go out with an Olympic medal or hoping to catch the eyes of an MLB needing a veteran.
Imagine what the Olympic baseball tournament could be with Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Jacob deGrom representing the USA. Imagine if the Dominican Republic, one of the great baseball nations in the world, could run out Fernando Tatis Jr. instead of old-timer Jose Bautista. Imagine if the home country of Japan could have had Shohei Ohtani both at the plate and on the mound for these games.
It would’ve been must-see TV for baseball fans and could’ve been what it takes to get a few more eyes watching the game for the second half of the season. I’m sorry, but 36-year old Melky Cabrera and journeyman catcher Tim Federowicz aren’t going to get any people excited about the game. It wouldn’t surprise me if MLB fans aren’t even tuning in for these games.
What would it take for Major League Baseball to get the superstars into the Olympics?
Well, a few obvious concessions would have to be made.
First, the players would have to be interested. I think they would be. All Stars of MLB show up and give their all when the World Baseball Classic, last held in 2017, is held. I’m sure they would certainly be as interested in playing for their countries for a coveted gold medal.
The biggest issue for MLB would be halting its season for the games. The NBA has always been fortunate enough to have the Summer Olympics held during its natural offseason so pros could compete. The comparison MLB has is the NHL, who in the past has stopped its season for two weeks so its professional hockey players could compete in the Winter Olympics ice hockey tournament. The NHL didn’t do this for the most recent Winter games in 2018 but has announced plans to do so for the 2022 games in Beijing.
It might be a bit of a hassle for MLB to fit 162 games into a season while taking two weeks off, but it’s doable. The league could either start the season early, end the season late (or a combination of both). It could also forego the All Star Game every Olympic year and make the break longer.
Sure, there’s the risk of injury that might deter players and the teams from wanting them to compete midseason, but again the NHL does this midseason, and it rarely seems to be an issue. Also, I’m sure MLB could see the benefits to the game long term outweigh the negatives.
I know MLB players in future Olympic games would be a great thing for the future of the sport, and it would also make the Olympics that much more exciting. MLB, please make it happen by 2028.
by Julian Spivey
The Olympics changed forever in 1992 when professional athletes were allowed to compete in basketball for the first time at the Summer Olympics. Those 1992 Barcelona games saw the greatest single squad of basketball players ever created in the United States of America team that became known as the “Dream Team.” Eleven of the team’s 12 players would go on to be inducted in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame and the team itself would also inducted into the hall in 2010. There have been 76 NBA players to compete in the Olympics, included that original Dream Team roster since 1992.
Here is a definitive ranking of all 76 …
76. Keldon Johnson
I had never heard of Keldon Johnson, who has completed one full NBA season with the San Antonio Spurs, before he was announced as an injury replacement for veteran Kevin Love shortly before the 2020 games. I’m sure he’s mostly there because USA coach Gregg Popovich (coach of the Spurs) had a lot of familiarity with him.
75. Jerami Grant
There just weren’t many available big men for Team USA for the ongoing 2020 Tokyo games, which is probably how the team ended up with Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant on the roster. He is coming off winning NBA’s Most Improved Player award for the 2020-21 season, but he’s typically not the star power you see at the Olympics.
74. JaVale McGee
JaVale McGee was a late addition to the 2020 USA roster when Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal contracted COVID-19 and had to leave the team and the team decided to add another big man instead of a guard. McGee has won three of the last five NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers, but the current Denver Nuggets veteran has spent a lot of his career as a reserve.
73. Emeka Okafor
The state of the 2020 USA roster has moved Emeka Okafor up the ladder a bit when it comes to this list. He would’ve been dead last prior. Okafor was a big on that 2004 bronze-winning team at the Athens Olympics that a lot of people would like to forget about. He had a rather short NBA career that’s biggest highlight was winning NBA Rookie of the Year in 2005.
72. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is our first gold medalist on this list winning it all at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games with Team USA. He was a good no. 4 player on the Golden State Warriors first dynasty championship in 2015 but left shortly after for the Dallas Mavericks and has rarely been heard from since. He’s currently on the Sacramento Kings, which is apparently still an NBA franchise.
71. Tayshaun Prince
Tayshaun Prince was a member of the 2008 Beijing Olympic “Redeem Team.” Mostly known for his defense that earned him four consecutive All-NBA Defensive Second Team honor, he was also a champion early on in his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons. Prince is one of the few USA Olympians who never made an NBA All Star Game in his career.
70. Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo is the big that will likely see the most playing time on Team USA at these 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Miami Heat All Star has made the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team the last two years running. Adebayo is likely a guy who will jump some of these names ahead of him in the future.
69. Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler may seem like an odd name on this list, but he was a member of the 2012 London gold-winning roster shortly after he helped the Dallas Mavericks win their only NBA title in 2011 and was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year winner in 2012.
68. Richard Jefferson
Some may just remember Richard Jefferson as a key reserve on LeBron James’ title-winning Cleveland Cavaliers team at the end of his NBA career, but he was quite the player for New Jersey Nets in the early days of his career before he became a journeyman. He was a member of the 2004 Athens team that struggled to a bronze medal.
67. Zach LaVine
Like Bam Adebayo before him, Zach LaVine is a name that’s sure to surpass some of the guys that are currently ranked above him in the future. LaVine is making his Olympic debut at Tokyo and can be a big scorer for the team if he can find the ball enough on a team that features Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Devin Booker and more.
66. Steve Smith
Steve Smith is likely one of the forgotten players on the 2000 Sydney Olympics gold medal-winning basketball team on a roster that included future Hall of Famers like Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton and Ray Allen, but he wasn’t long off a 1998 NBA All Star appearance with the Atlanta Hawks, whom he had the best years of his career with before becoming a bit of a journeyman reserve, including a spot on the 2003 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
65. Christian Laettner
Christian Laettner was the water boy for the 1992 Dream Team at the Barcelona Olympics. No, he wasn’t, but honestly, he as well should’ve been. As a then college star at Duke, he was the odd man out on the Dream Team and is the only player on that roster who wasn’t inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player, he however is inducted as a member of the Dream Team. He was an NBA All Star in 1997 with the Atlanta Hawks, but he never lived up to his college hype in the pros. You won’t see another member of that original Dream Team for another 30-plus spots.
64. Antonio McDyess
Antonio McDyess is probably a flash from the past for many of us. He made one NBA All Star team in 2001 as a member of the Denver Nuggets and was on the All-NBA Third Team in 1999. I don’t remember a whole lot about the remainder of his career. He was probably the least remembered member of the 2000 Sydney gold-winning team.
63. Allan Houston
I mostly remember Allan Houston as one of the best sharpshooters in the NBA in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s for the New York Knicks. Houston was an All Star in consecutive years for the Knicks in 2000 and 2001 and part of the 2000 Sydney Olympics gold medal squad. He finished his NBA career averaging 17.3 points per game.
62. Vin Baker
Do y’all remember that Vin Baker was named to four consecutive NBA All Star teams in the mid-to-late ‘90s? I didn’t either. But he had some truly good seasons with both the Milwaukee Bucks (which he’s currently an assistant coach for) and Seattle SuperSonics and averaged 15 points per game for his career. He helped Team USA win gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
61. Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer made a couple of NBA All Star teams in the late ‘00s with the Utah Jazz and averaged 16.2 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game in a solid pro career. Boozer was a member of the disappointing 2004 bronze-winning team at the Athens Olympics and then came back to be part of the “Redeem Team” in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics that won gold. He was one of only four players from 2004 to be a part of the Redeem Team along with superstars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony Dwyane Wade.
60. Michael Redd
Michael Redd was one of the NBA’s best sharpshooters in the early-to-mid-‘00s before his career was cut short due to nagging injuries. The Milwaukee Bucks 2004 All Star was a member of the 2008 Beijing Olympics “Redeem Team” and averaged 19 points per game over his pro career.
59. Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Shareef Abdur-Rahim is a blast from the past. Abdur-Rahim was a member of the 2000 Sydney Olympics gold-medal winning team. He was an All-Star in the 2002 season with the Atlanta Hawks and was the face of the Vancouver Grizzlies before that in the late ‘90s. Abdur-Rahim averaged just over 18 points per game for his NBA career.
58. Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum is a guy certainly to move up this list in the coming years. The 23-year-old Boston Celtics All Star is making his Olympic debut this year at the 2020 Tokyo games. Tatum is coming off a career high 26.4 points per game for the Celtics.
57. Khris Middleton & 56. Jrue Holiday
I’m going to do Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton together as they’re just coming off an NBA championship as teammates on the Milwaukee Bucks. In fact, Holiday and Middleton became the first players in NBA/Olympics history to compete in the NBA Finals and Olympics in the very same week. Hopefully these two guys won’t be too wasted from a long NBA season and playoffs as they make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo.
55. Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom had a solid NBA career that included back-to-back NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers as probably the team’s third best player. He was also the league’s Sixth Man of the Year with the team in 2011. Surprisingly Odom never made an All Star team and his 13.3 points per game over his career are likely one of the lowest for any Team USA member. He was on the bronze-winning 2004 Athens team.
54. Stephon Marbury
Remember when Stephon Marbury was the next big thing in the NBA, but never quite lived up to his expectations? That also kind of sums up his Olympic career, as he only made an appearance on the disappointing Olympic bronze-winning team in Athens, the only Olympics in which Team USA hasn’t won gold since pros began playing in the 1992 Barcelona games.
53. DeAndre Jordan
I remember remarking in 2016 during the Rio de Janeiro that DeAndre Jordan, who was on that year’s Team USA squad, had to be one of the few NBA Olympians ever to never make an All Star team (which was honestly a bit surprising). He would end up making the All Star Game the next NBA season. He would go on to win gold in Rio.
52. Devin Booker
Devin Booker is making his Team USA Olympic debut at these 2020 Tokyo Games. He joined Milwaukee Bucks players Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday as the first NBAers to ever play in an NBA Finals game and Olympics game in the same week. The Phoenix Suns sharpshooter is coming off a season in which he scored 25.6 points per game.
51. Anfernee Hardaway
Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was well on his way to a Hall of Fame NBA career before injuries took hold of him at a still young age. He was such a superstar in his early career with the Orlando Magic teaming with Shaquille O’Neal that he even had a superstar alter ego in commercials named Little Penny! He was on the 1996 Atlanta gold medal-winning team.
50. Deron Williams
Deron Williams’ NBA superstar light seemed to burn quickly, but he was one of the game’s best point guards for about a half decade from the late ‘00s with the Utah Jazz and early ‘10s with the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets. He was good enough to be a part of two gold medal-winning USA basketball squads at the 2008 Beijing games and the 2012 London games.
49. Shawn Marion
Shawn Marion had a lot of great years with the Phoenix Suns in the ‘00s becoming a four-time All Star over a five-season span from 2003-2007. He would later become an important role player on the NBA champion 2011 Dallas Mavericks. His Olympic career was not so strong as he was only a member of the 2004 Athens bronze-placing team.
48. Amar’e Stoudemire
Amar’e Stoudemire was a special big man for the Phoenix Suns from 2002-2010, including one year in 2007 were he made the NBA’s All-First Team. But like so many big men injuries would take their toll on his later in his career. The six-time All Star was a member of the disappointing bronze-winning team at the 2004 Athens games.
47. Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala has had a very good NBA career as both his team’s best player, as he was on the Philadelphia 76ers early on in his career, and an incredibly important role player and mentor on one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history, as he was on the Golden State Warriors winning three titles from 2013-2019, including 2015 where he was NBA Finals MVP. Iguodala was a member of the gold medal winning team in 2012 at the London games.
46. Tim Hardaway
Five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway was one of the old veterans on the 2000 Sydney gold medal-winning squad. He had a strong career, mostly with the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat in the ‘90s that saw him make the All-NBA First Team in 1997 and the All-NBA Second Team three times.
45. Draymond Green
Draymond Green’s leadership and tenacity on defense were such a crucial part of the Golden State Warriors dynasty a few years ago. He’s the kind of personality you just want to have on your Olympic roster, even if there are flashier players and guys who put up much bigger numbers at the basket. The three-time NBA All Star and 2017 Defensive Player of the Year won gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games and has returned for the 2020 Tokyo games.
44. DeMarcus Cousins
One of the best centers in the NBA over the last decade, DeMarcus Cousins was a member of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro gold medal-winning Team USA team. Cousins is a four-time All Star and two-time All-NBA second team member who unfortunately looks like his best years are behind him due to injury troubles.
43. Kyle Lowry & 42. DeMar DeRozan
Even though they are no longer teammates (though rumors say both are interested in reuniting), it always seems like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan belong together. Lowry and DeRozan were the heart and soul of the Toronto Raptors from 2012-2018 (and it’s unfortunate DeRozan wasn’t a member of the Raptors championship team) and are close friends. DeRozan is a four-time NBA All Star and Lowry has been an All Star six times. The two teamed up on the gold winning Rio de Janeiro squad in 2016.
41. Jimmy Butler
As you can probably tell by now this is the segment of the list for much of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro squad. Jimmy Butler was another member of that Team USA group. Butler has been a stud for a good half decade now with both the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat both on offense and defense making five All Star teams and has been selected to five All-NBA defensive second teams.
40. Mitch Richmond
Mitch Richmond is the first Pro Basketball Hall of Famer we’ve gotten to on this list thus far. Richmond was a six-time NBA All Star, all consecutively from 1993-1998 with the Sacramento Kings, which retired his No. 2 jersey. He averaged 21 points per game for his career. Richmond was on the 1996 Atlanta Olympics gold medal-winning team. He was also a bronze medalist at the 1988 Seoul games before pros were allowed to compete in the Olympics.
39. Kevin Love
Kevin Love has kind of become a forgotten man lately in the NBA due to injury struggles and being on the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers post-LeBron James, but the guy’s likely going to be a Hall of Famer. The five-time NBA All Star was a member of the 2012 London gold medal-winning roster and was supposed to return to these Japan game as veteran leadership but was forced out last second due to withdrawing with a nagging calf injury.
38. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is likely going to move up this list quite a bit. The sharpshooter from the Portland Trail Blazers is making his Olympic debut at these Japan 2020 games after having to miss the 2016 Brazil games due to injury. The six-time NBA All Star has averaged 24.7 points per games for his career.
37. Paul George
Paul George has been a force to be reckoned with in his NBA career both offensively and defensively making the NBA’s All-NBA First team in 2019 and the All-Defensive First Team twice. The seven-time NBA All Star won gold with Team USA in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games, which must have been truly special for him after suffering a devastating leg injury for Team USA at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in qualifications for those Olympics games.
36. Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson is the only half of the Splash Brothers to ever appear in an Olympics (yes, surprisingly Stephen Curry has not played in an Olympics yet). Thompson has been an integral part of the Golden State Warriors dynasty of the past decade in the NBA and has made five All Star teams. Thompson won gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games.
35. Kyrie Irving
Seven-time NBA All Star Kyrie Irving was truly riding high in 2016 when he won a gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro games shortly after being the Robin to LeBron James’s Batman in the Cleveland Cavaliers shocking championship run over the Golden State Warriors.
34. Vince Carter
There’s no doubt in my mind that Vince Carter is responsible for the greatest image in Olympic Team USA history when he took flight in a 2000 Sydney Olympics game against France and leapt over France’s 7’2’’ center Fredric Weis. It’s a dunk the French Media dubbed “le dunk de la mort” or “the dunk of death.” Carter would help Team USA win gold in Sydney.
33. Grant Hill
Grant Hill is a Pro Basketball Hall of Famer, but it’s unknown just how special of a career he truly could’ve had in the NBA had injuries not taken its toll on his body. The early part of his career with the Detroit Pistons he was a force to be reckoned with. The seven-time NBA All Star was an All-NBA First Team member in 1997 and helped Team USA win gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
32. Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh, a 11-time NBA All Star (which you can kind of forget how great he was until you see that) and two-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, was part of the 2008 Beijing Redeem Team after the 2004 Olympic bronze disappointment. The Pro Basketball Hall of Famer finished his career – which was shortened by blood clot issues – averaging 19.2 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game.
31. Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin is a Pro Basketball Hall of Famer, but when it comes to the original members of the Dream Team, he’s one that kind of gets a bit forgotten. The five-time NBA All Star from 1989-1993 always seems to get the short-end of the stick when it comes to remembering greats of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, probably because he was never on a real title contender. He won gold in Barcelona in ’92 but was already a gold medalist by then having won gold in the 1984 Los Angeles games while a collegiate standout at St. John’s.
30. Alonzo Mourning
Alonzo Mourning had both a great career and story in the NBA. Mourning was a seven-time All Star for the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat and one of the best big men in the game in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. In late 2005 Mourning was going to announce his retirement due to kidney diseases. Luckily his cousin was a match, Mourning received a transplant and made it back to the league where he’d play an integral role off the bench for the Heat in the team’s 2006 championship season. Mourning won gold with Team USA at the 2000 Sydney games.
29. Clyde Drexler
Clyde “The Glide” Drexler – one of the all-time greatest nicknames in basketball history. Drexler was one of the dominant scorers in the NBA in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s with the Portland Trail Blazers. He would win the only NBA All-First team spot of his career in 1992 shortly before winning gold on the Dream Team with Team USA in the ’92 Barcelona games. He would go on to win an NBA title with the Houston Rockets in 1995, teaming with Hakeem Olajuwon, who he played with as a Dream Team member.
28. Ray Allen
Ray Allen is the all-time leader in made three-point baskets in NBA history, at least for a bit longer until Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry surpasses him. The three shot has become as big a part of Olympic and international basketball as it has in the NBA and Allen was that guy for Team USA winning gold at the 2000 games in Sydney.
27. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard was likely the last great big man in the NBA with the traditional big man dominant in the inside and post style of play. The league effectively changed midway through his career and sort of made his style of play irrelevant, but we mustn’t forget how truly dominant he was in his tenure with the Orlando Magic. The eight-time NBA All Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year won gold with the Redeem Team at the 2008 Beijing games.
26. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is only 28 years old, so he could easily find himself moving further up this list in the years to come if injuries don’t completely derail his career, as they often seem to try to do. The Los Angeles Lakers big man, who can also drain a basketball from downtown, was a gold medalist on the 2012 London Team USA squad without having yet played an NBA game.
25. James Harden
Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2018, was a member of the gold medal winning team in London in 2012 when he was still known a bit more as a role player for the Oklahoma City Thunder rather than the torch you for 50 points star, he’d become with the Houston Rockets. The nine-time NBA All Star and three-time scoring champion was supposed to join his Nets teammate Kevin Durant in the current 2020 Tokyo games but was a last second withdrawal due to injury he sustained in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
24. Reggie Miller
I can’t help but wonder how much trash talking Reggie Miller did in the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta to international players and how much of it those guys understood. One of the greatest long-ball shooters in NBA history the Indiana Pacers legend won gold in Atlanta, where he led the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game.
23. Chris Paul
Chris Paul might still be without an NBA title, but he is one of a handful of guys to win two gold medals in Olympic play having done so with the 2008 Beijing team and the 2012 London team. The 11-time NBA All Star has been one of the game’s best point guards throughout the entirety of his career and his tenacity on the court was a major gain for Team USA.
22. Gary Payton
I can’t help but wonder how many international players at both the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 2000 Sydney Olympics had Gary Payton get under their skin with both his trash talk and ferocious defense. The nine-time NBA All Star and 1996 Defensive Player of the Year winner seems like the absolute perfect guy to have on your squad when playing the world’s best.
21. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is a walking triple-double. The nine-time NBA All Star who was just traded to the Los Angeles Lakers to help former a super team with Lebron James and Anthony Davis won gold with Team USA at the 2012 London games, where he somehow played less minutes than Deron Williams.
20. Carmelo Anthony
If I were ranking this list by performance solely at the Olympic games than there’s a possibility 10-time NBA All Star Carmelo Anthony might be all the way at the top of this list. Anthony has won more gold medals than any player in Olympic basketball history with three (2008 Beijing, 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro) he also won bronze on the 2004 Athens team and until Kevin Durant surpassed him at these 2020 Tokyo games was the all-time leading scorer in Olympic history for Team USA.
19. Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd is arguably the second greatest natural point guard to ever compete in the pro era of the Olympics for Team USA behind John Stockton. The 10-time NBA All Star, who is ranked second all-time in NBA assists behind only Stockton, won gold with Team USA at both the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
18. Scottie Pippen
Scottie Pippen is somewhat unfairly known as the greatest “second fiddle” in NBA history as his Chicago Bulls teammate Michael Jordan received all the accolades, but he was the type of player – who gave it all on defense and could get you a bucket at will – that Team USA really needed. The six-time NBA champ and three-time All-NBA First Team member won gold with the original Dream Team in Barcelona in ’92 and then came back four years later in Atlanta to repeat. Pippen was one of five players from the original Dream Team to return in ’96.
17. Patrick Ewing
The sheer height of both Patrick Ewing and David Robinson on the original 1992 Dream Team must have scared the bejesus out of some of their opponents. The New York Knicks 11-time All Star had already won Olympic gold in 1984 in Los Angeles as a collegiate star at Georgetown before coming to do so again as an NBA star. Ewing scored 9.5 points per game for Team USA while splitting time equally with Robinson.
16. Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade always had the good leadership role during his 13-time All Star career in the NBA, mostly with the Miami Heat. That made him an integral member of Team USA. He was on that disappointing 2004 Athens bronze winning team, but then came back in Beijing in 2008 as a member of the Redeem Team. The three-time NBA champion eighth all-time in Team USA scoring in Olympic history.
15. Allen Iverson
One of the more exciting players to ever suit up for Team USA in Olympic action is Allen Iverson. The 11-time NBA All Star and 2001 league Most Valuable Player somewhat surprisingly made one Olympic appearance during his career and it was somewhat unsurprisingly as part the bronze team in Athens. At 13.8 points per game, Iverson was that team’s leading scorer, something he was very used to being for his teams.
14. Charles Barkley
The 1992 Dream Team featured some of the greatest of the greats in NBA history. Top 10 all-time NBA players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It also featured Karl Malone, who’s second all-time in NBA points. But one of my favorite Dream Team trivia answers is that it was Charles Barkley who led the team in scoring in the Barcelona games with 18 points per game. This was at the height of Barkley’s best years and the next year he’d win NBA Most Valuable Player and lead his Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals.
13. David Robinson
David Robinson was a member of those first two Dream Team squads of the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta games and up until being surpassed by more modern and still active NBA superstars like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James was the all-time Team USA scorer (he’s still fourth all-time with 270 points).
12. Kevin Garnett
It’s somewhat surprising that Kevin Garnett, one of the league’s best players from the mid-‘90s throughout much of the ‘00s, only competed in one Olympic games – he won gold at the 2000 Sydney games. The 15-time NBA All Star and 2004 league Most Valuable Player was the second leading scorer on that squad (behind Vince Carter) at 10.8 points per game. He also led the squad with nine boards a game.
11. John Stockton
John Stockton is the quintessential NBA point guard and his all-time NBA records in careers assists and steals are likely to never be broken. Stockton was on the original ’92 Dream Team, but only played in four games of that tournament as he suffered a broken foot against Canada in the games. He would return for the ’96 Atlanta games, where he would get the least number of minutes of the tournament, but also somehow led that squad in blocked shots.
10. Kevin Durant
It’s honestly probably only a matter of time before Kevin Durant climbs into the top five on this list. Durant recently became the all-time leading scorer in Team USA Olympic history at these 2020 Tokyo games and is hoping to lead the team to his third career gold medal – he won gold at the 2012 London games and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games – but 2020 may prove to be a harder task.
9. Karl Malone
Karl Malone is second all-time in NBA history in scoring. On the original 1992 Dream Team at the Barcelona games Malone was third in scoring (behind Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan) averaging 13 points per game enroute to winning gold. When he returned for the ’96 Atlanta games he was a little further down the scoring line with 8.4 points per game also on the way to winning gold.
8. Kobe Bryant
The late, great Kobe Bryant had surprisingly avoided Team USA at the Olympics for the first half of his career, not appearing in either the 2000 or 2004 games, but after the country’s disappointing run to bronze at Athens in 2004 it was up to him and some of the game’s other superstars to ensure gold went back to the United States. Bryant was third on Team USA in scoring with 15 points per game winning gold in Beijing in 2008 and fourth on the team in scoring when winning gold in 2012 in London with 12.1 points per game.
7. Shaquille O’Neal
I’m somewhat surprised that Shaquille O’Neal only competed in one Olympic games – winning gold with Team USA in Atlanta in 1996. O’Neal was the most dominant big man in the NBA for a good decade or more and I’m sure he was throwing around international players like ragdolls at those games. The four-time NBA champion averaged 9.3 point per game in Atlanta, and was outscored by David Robinson, who played fewer minutes at the center position. That ’96 team had a triple-headed monster at center with Shaq, Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
6. Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon was born in Nigeria but became a naturalized American citizen in early 1993. Therefore, Olajuwon was a member of the Team USA squad at the ’96 games in Atlanta but wasn’t on the original Dream Team four years before. Olajuwon split his center minutes fairly evenly with Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson at the ’96 Olympics and averaged five points and three rebounds per game.
5. Larry Bird
Larry Bird was past his prime due to back problems when he joined the original Dream Team in 1992 at the Barcelona games. In fact, he’d play for Team USA in those games after competing in his final NBA season, though he didn’t announce his retirement until after the Olympics. However, you truly couldn’t have a “Dream Team” without Bird, who scored 8.4 points per game enroute to winning gold.
4. Magic Johnson
Like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson’s NBA career was over before he became a member of the 1992 Dream Team (though he did return briefly in 1996). It was a bit controversial when Johnson was announced to the team because he had retired the year before after announcing he was HIV-positive and at the time not everyone knew what that meant, especially if he were injured and bleeding. The three-time NBA Most Valuable Player would compete in six of Team USA’s pro debut at the games and averaged eight points per game and 5.5 assists per game. Due to both Johnson and John Stockton missing games in that tournament Scottie Pippen became the team’s primary ballhandler.
3. Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan’s Team USA Olympic career was disappointing, as the only Olympic games he ever competed in was those 2004 Athens games when Team USA failed to win the gold medal for the only team (thus far) since NBA players were allowed to compete at the games. But remember this list isn’t solely based on Olympic careers. Duncan is likely the greatest power forward in NBA history leading the San Antonio Spurs to five championships and winning league Most Valuable Player in back-to-back years in 2002 and 2003. Duncan was second on that Athens squad in scoring at 12.9 points per game and led the team in rebounding with nine per game.
2. LeBron James
These top two choices are just going to be common sense. LeBron James has two gold medals from the 2008 Beijing games and 2012 London games and won bronze in 2004 in Athens. His 273 points are third most in Team USA Olympic history behind Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. James is a four-time NBA champ (incredibly with three different teams), a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 17-time All Star.
1. Michael Jordan
Most people consider Michael Jordan to be the greatest basketball player that has ever lived. So, of course, he’s going to also top this list of the greatest Olympic NBA players of all-time. The 1992 Dream Team at the Barcelona games was the only Olympics Jordan ever appeared in as a pro, but he had already won Olympic gold at the 1984 Los Angeles games as a collegiate star at North Carolina. The six-time NBA champion and five-time Most Valuable Player was second on the Dream Team in scoring at 14.9 points per game.
Let us know what your top 5 would be in the comments!
by Julian Spivey
I woke up on Tuesday, July 27 to a text from my wife that read: “Something crazy happened in [the] Olympics.” I hadn’t seen anything as I was waking up a bit earlier than I normally would before going to work to watch the gold medal softball game between Japan and the United States and I didn’t want that game to be spoiled by getting online or on social media.
I later found out that the “crazy,” a word my wife later apologized for in text as a “poor choice of word” when she found out the true reasoning for the surprise was that Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast – I’m comfortable saying male or female – of all-time decided to withdraw from the women’s team final event at the 2020 Tokyo games for what she cited as “mental health” after the event.
Biles is the second high profile athlete to withdraw from a major sporting event in 2021 citing their mental health. Tennis star Naomi Osaka, who was representing her home country of Japan in these Olympics and was eliminated in the third round of the tournament, withdrew from the French Open earlier this year to focus on her mental health. She then opted not to compete in another tennis major tournament Wimbledon for the same reason.
Anytime the topic of mental health is approached it’s a sensitive topic. If you don’t side with the person (athlete in this case) you’re going to seem like a jerk. That was the situation I immediately found myself in on Tuesday when I felt like Biles let her teammates down. I don’t like feeling like a jerk, but all these hours later I haven’t really changed my opinion on it and it’s something that’s been on my mind all day.
We all have mental health issues from time to time. If anyone claims they have never had a moment of poor mental health in their life they’re lying to you. I don’t have a problem admitting to you that I take medication daily to help keep my mental health in check. So, I can feel for Biles situation, but I also feel badly for her teammates. I really do feel like she quit on them. If she had stated before the Olympic games that she couldn’t go through with the competition for mental health reasoning it would’ve been different for me because the team would’ve had time to prepare, and this wouldn’t have been thrown upon them in the middle of an event. If she had pushed through the team event – I’d have to think Biles even at her absolute worse is still a better gymnast than most – and then backed out of the individual events I wouldn’t have felt like she let anybody down. I never felt like Osaka was letting anybody down because she didn’t owe anything to anyone. Tennis is an individual sport though.
Biles doesn’t owe the Olympics anything. She doesn’t owe the fans watching from home anything. She doesn’t even owe the United States anything. She’s given so much of herself to her sport and in turn the sport hasn’t truly treated her kindly (that’s for another discussion though, but if you don’t know what I mean read up on both the sport changing scoring based on her greatness and then the disgusting abuse from team doctor Larry Nasser). Let’s just say you can understand why her mental health could use a break.
But I do feel like she owed her teammates Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum a finish to the event. There’s a great chance her teammates back Biles 100 percent and even if they don’t, they’re unlikely to announce any displeasure anytime soon.
It’s the team aspect that bugs me about it. You just don’t quit on your teammates in sports. Admittedly this is an old school sports view. It’s one today that I’ve been told I’m wrong about. It’s one I might change my opinion on in the future – I’ve done that from time to time when it comes to both sports and life.
Was Biles brave to back out of the team event? Hell yes, she was brave to do it! Because by backing out you have people like me taking issue with it. It’s never easy to do anything that could be considered controversial.
There’s conversation tonight about whether Biles might still compete in the individual competition on Thursday. That would truly only make backing out of the team event look worse. If her mental health needs work, it’s likely going to take more than 48 hours to get it right. Osaka took nearly two months off before returning to tennis. Now I’m fully aware nobody’s mental health is the same, but if Biles needs time take the time.