Welcome back: Top 5 biggest stars returning to national teams

Welcome back: Top 5 biggest stars returning to national teams

MIES (Switzerland) – With just over two weeks left until tip-off, the excitement is building towards the biggest sporting event of the year. The Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament Paris 2024 is set to be one of the strongest, if not the strongest ever.

Not only are some of the big names set to make their Olympic debuts, there is also the matter of megastars coming back to this stage after brief or long sabbaticals from the national team duties.

LeBron James – United States

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Is there anything left to say about this man? Just five months before his 40th birthday, LeBron James is ready to play his fourth Olympic games, exactly 20 years after his first appearance in Athens in 2004. He already has one bronze medal (2004) and two gold medals (2008 and 2012).

He last played at this level in 2012, averaging 13.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and a team-high 5.6 assists per game en route to his second Olympic gold medal.

In the Quarter-Finals against Australia in London, he collected 11 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists, making him one of just three players with an Olympic triple-double, alongside Alexander Belov (1976) and Luka Doncic (2021).

Steph Curry – United States

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Many USA players could be on this list, but let’s settle with the two stars who have been away from USA Basketball action for the longest time. It’s been 12 years since LeBron James played for his national team, and Steph Curry is right behind him, having last played for USA back in 2014 at the World Cup.

He averaged 10.7 points on 43.8 percent shooting from beyond the three-point line, and in his two stints with the United States at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Curry lifted twice the trophy with a 17-0 combined record in 2010 and 2014.

Honorable mention goes to Anthony Davis. He played with LeBron James in 2012, and Steph Curry in 2014, making him another returnee after a decade away from international waters.

LeBron and Steph played together last night for the first USA friendly, a win against Americas rival Canada.

The friendly game report is here:

Nikola Jokic – Serbia

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Imagine having a basketball story so sublime, you could afford not having Nikola Jokic on your team, and still finishing as runners up at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. That’s Serbia for you. Their basketball heritage should be studied in laboratories over the world.

Jokic is now back with the team, two years after his stellar FIBA EuroBasket 2022 run. The Joker was up to 21.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.8 steals and an efficiency rating of 31.7 per game, all done in just 25.0 minutes a night.

The three-time NBA MVP already knows what it’s like to win a medal at the Olympics. He helped Serbia to a second-place finish in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Jamal Murray – Canada

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Last summer, Canada picked up their first ever FIBA Basketball World Cup medal, finishing third after a nail-biting battle with the United States at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.

This summer, they have an even stronger team, as Jamal Murray is set to make a comeback. Yes, that’s right, a comeback, not a debut. Murray was just 18 when he first played for Canada, picking up a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games.

He also has a dramatic overtime win over the United States in his resume, with his six assists being the most for team Canada in a 111-108 Semi-Finals triumph, but Brazil were too strong in the Final, winning that one 86-71.

Fun fact: Along with Murray, four other players from the 2015 Pan American Games Final will also appear at the 2024 Summer Olympics. His teammates Melvin Ejim and Dillon Brooks, and Brazil’s tandem of Vitor Benite and Leo Meindl.

Rui Hachimura – Japan

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Even though they did not make the sweet 16 at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, Japan were still a feel-good story, collecting three wins and securing their qualification to the Olympics.

The biggest reason why this was considered such a great success is because they were playing without Rui Hachimura, their biggest star.

The flying fortress is now back, looking to repeat his 2021 heroics. At the Olympics in his backyard in Saitama, Japan, Hachimura put up 22.3 points per game, trailing only Ricky Rubio, Luka Doncic and Patty Mills on top of the scoring charts three years ago.

FIBA

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