NBA

Why LeBron James Could Return to Team USA for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

When it comes to modern basketball stars, few shine brighter than LeBron James. The forward has done just about everything on the hardwood, ranging from securing NBA scoring titles to winning Olympic gold medals. After the 2012 London games, however, James stepped away from the United States Men’s National Basketball Team. Things might be different in 2020, though.

USA Basketball recently released its preliminary roster for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics; while there will still be plenty of cuts, LeBron is on the initial list. In fact, there’s one specific reason why James is considering returning to the national team.

LeBron James’ gold medal career

LeBron James first burst onto the basketball scene during his time at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. From then, his star has only continued to rise.

In addition to his NBA exploits, James has also shone on the international stage. He first suited up for the United States Men’s’ National Team in 2004; that Olympic trip, however, didn’t end happily for anyone. The United States fell short of a gold medal for the first time in decades, and LeBron’s bad attitude overshadowed his limited minutes.

After that, though, things started to turn around. When Mike Krzyzewski took over the team for the 2008 Olympics, he asked LeBron to buy in and improve his attitude; the forward complied and finished the summer with a gold medal. He repeated the feat at the 2012 London Olympics, before taking a step back from the international game.

The forward could rejoin the team in time for the trip to Tokyo, though.

King James is on Team USA’s preliminary roster

On Tuesday, Team USA released its 44-man preliminary roster for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of big names on that tentative list.

The preliminary roster includes everyone from role players, like Mason Plumlee and a resurgent Dwight Howard, to legitimate stars like Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. One name, however, stands above the rest: LeBron James.

James, of course, didn’t participate in the 2016 Rio Olympics. He’s previously stated that 2020 might be more of the same; the Tokyo games will come at the end of a long season and might conflict with the filming of Space Jam 2.

My name is in the hat, and it’s always predicated on, one, my body, how my body’s feeling at the end of the season. I hope to make it a long playoff run,” LeBron recently told reporters. “Then, where my mind is, and then where my family’s head is. So there’s a lot of factors, but my name is in the hat.”

One Reason why LeBron James could head to Tokyo with Team USA

While LeBron James’ inclusion on Team USA’s preliminary Olympic roster is a positive sign, his summer schedule is still up in the air. One factor could motivate him to head to Japan, though: a chance to play under Gregg Popovich.

In the past, James has praised Popovich, calling him “one of [his] favorite guys ever” and has spoken highly of their time together with Team USA. The relationship is far from one-sided, though, with Pop calling LeBron “very special” and hailing his impact on an entire generation of basketball fans.

When push comes to shove, however, we won’t know LeBron’s final decision until closer to the summer. Due to the reality of the situation—there won’t be any formal try-outs, and the final roster will be picked by a selection committee closer to training camp—Team USA will probably be in a holding pattern. By getting James’ name onto the preliminary roster, the door is still open; if he decides he can make his schedule work, he’ll surely be welcomed to the squad.