PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
By DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer
LeBron James most likely won’t be playing in the new 3-on-3 competition at the 2020 Olympics.
And it’s even less likely that Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson will participate.
But a trio of MJ, Magic and LeBron in a 3-on-3 tournament would be, let’s just say, formidable.
The Cleveland Cavaliers star didn’t hesitate when asked by The Associated Press who his dream teammates would be for the Tokyo Games. That’s right, Michael and Magic – the leaders of the 1992 Dream Team.
When asked by the AP which current players he’d love to team with, James was a bit more cautious.
“I don’t know, I have to think about it,” James said before practice Sunday as he prepared for Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
While James said fans shouldn’t expect to see him in the competition – it’s still unclear if the NBA will even allow its players to compete – he is happy the new hoops tournament was added.
“It’s great for basketball,” he said. “For us to be able to add another category to the Olympics, another basketball category, I think it’s pretty great. I haven’t seen the full layout of how they plan on executing it … are they going to use NBA guys, are they going to use college guys. I’m not quite sure.
“I’m not very good in a 3-on-3 thing. I’m more of a 5-on-5 guy. I stay out of the 1-on-1 matchups during our practice, the 2-on-2 and the 3-on-3s. So probably not. I probably won’t be a part of the 3-on-3 matchup.”
The new Olympic event was added Friday by the International Olympic Committee. There will be eight men’s teams and eight women’s teams competing. As far as what teams are selected and how teams qualify, that’s still unclear.
“They don’t want just the basketball powers to compete in 3-on-3,” said USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley. “FIBA will get together and figure out how teams will qualify. They will definitely want to reward countries that have been doing a lot of 3-on-3 activities.”
The U.S. has been pushing 3-on-3 over the past few years and held a national tournament last month. The winners will head to the World Cup in France later this month.
“The last few years, we have made a major push in 3-on-3 basketball with our nationwide Dew NBA 3X tour and several international 3-on-3 competitions. The Olympic stage will provide these elite athletes with the opportunity to further demonstrate their talents,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum said.
NBA players grew up playing 3-on-3 and welcomed its addition, even if they don’t end up playing.
Draymond Green is one those players, and said one reason he is in a favor of it is because “guys can win that are not pro athletes.”
The Golden State Warriors forward said “that could be really good. You see in these other sports where they go compete in the Olympics but they have regular day jobs. I think that can be like that for 3-on-3. So I think that can be great.”
While the new event may not have NBA guys competing, count Breanna Stewart as one WNBA player who would love the chance to play in both basketball events if possible.
“Sure, I’d love to do it,” said Stewart, who won her first Olympic gold medal at the Rio Games. “Whenever I can put on a USA Basketball jersey … I’d be happy to.”
The U.S. has never won a men’s gold medal while playing in the 3-on-3 World Cup, which began in 2012. Serbia has won the title twice and Qatar was the champion in 2014. The Americans won the silver in 2016 after finishing 14th in 2014.
The women won gold medals in 2012 and 2014 before settling for the bronze in 2016.
“Definitely I would play in it again if offered the opportunity,” said Bria Hartley, who was part of the first title team in 2012, pairing with fellow WNBA players Chiney Ogwumike, Skylar Diggins and Ann Strother. “It was so much fun and it’s so fast-paced.”
The rules are made for up-tempo competition .
With one 10-minute period, the 3-on-3 is a lot quicker than its 5-on-5 counterpart. A game can end even sooner if a team scores 21 points in less than 10 minutes. If the game is tied after 10 minutes, it goes into overtime with the first team scoring two points in OT wins. Those rules make a big difference in limiting the Americans’ depth, which they have used to overwhelm opponents in traditional Olympic basketball games.
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AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley and Josh Dubow contributed to this story from Oakland, California.