14 December 2023

LeBron James expected to play in London ahead of Paris Olympics

14 December 2023

LeBron James has been tipped to play in London before heading to the Olympics with the United States as two warm-up games have been scheduled for the reigning gold medallists.

Los Angeles Lakers star James has hinted he wants to be part of the squad that heads to Paris looking to win a fifth successive men’s basketball gold – having not featured at an Olympics since London 2012.

The United States will face South Sudan on July 20 and Germany two days later with both games taking place at the O2 Arena as preparations ramp up for the Olympics.

Speaking to the PA news agency, seven-time NBA All-Star and 1996 gold medallist Grant Hill believes there is every chance James could make the trip to Europe despite missing the previous two Games.

“That’s definitely a possibility and we’re grateful with this programme that LeBron and Kevin Durant and plenty others have expressed a willingness and a desire to be a part of it,” he said.

“I think it speaks to the culture of USA Basketball. Many of these guys who have talked publicly had been a part of it in years past and are wanting to be a part of it again.

“Then you have some great players who haven’t been a part of USA basketball, haven’t played on the FIBA stage, who want to be a part of this. So that’s a really good thing.

We're grateful with this programme that LeBron and Kevin Durant and plenty others have expressed a willingness and a desire to be a part of it

“It’s a really positive thing – we’ve got the instruments, we got all these guys, so let’s put the pieces together.”

The US could win an unparalleled 17th men’s basketball gold having dominated the sport since it joined the Olympic programme in 1936.

Hill, though, believes there is added pressure with the expectation of being perennial champions.

“There are so many incredibly talented international teams,” he said.

“We have to respect our opponents. We have to respect how difficult this is but the heat is on in this pressure and that’s a good thing.

“You want that and the best of the best have become comfortable in those pressure situations because they know it means something and it’s something of value.”

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South Sudan have qualified for the men’s basketball for the first time and are the lowest-ranked nation to do so since 2004, while Germany are the reigning World Cup champions.

“These are not friendly matches, this is serious,” Hill said of the fixtures in London.

“When we play here in London next summer it is the start your preparation. Then the next thing you know you’re in Paris and so it’s just a small window to get yourself ready.

“So you need quality opponents, which we have, and there’s a sense of urgency every time we step on the court.”

:: Tickets to see USA Basketball play Germany and South Sudan at London’s O2 arena go on sale Friday December 15, 1pm at ticketek.com

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