James Harden
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James Harden is 8th U.S. basketball withdrawal; who remains?

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Houston Rockets guard James Harden is the eighth of 31 USA Basketball finalists to withdraw from Olympic team consideration before the 12-man roster is expected to be named June 27.

Harden, one of four to withdraw this week and the fifth withdrawal of the eight overall who had been named to the 2012 Olympic team, did not cite a reason.

Previously, Russell WestbrookLaMarcus AldridgeStephen CurryChris PaulJohn WallAnthony Davis and Blake Griffin withdrew for various reasons.

Most of the eight withdrawals have been due to injury. Nobody has cited the Zika virus.

“As a result of many difficult conversations with my family, the Rockets, and trusted advisors, I’ve notified Jerry Colangelo and Team USA that I will not be competing at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Brazil,” Harden said in a statement Friday night. “This decision was a painstaking one that I did not take lightly. As a member of the 2012 London Olympic Gold Medal Team, and as Team Captain for the 2014 FIBA Gold Medal Team, it goes without saying that USA Basketball has provided me with some of the most meaningful personal and professional accomplishments of my life. I have been extremely blessed to wear the ‘red, white, and blue’ and to compete at the highest international level with the greatest players representing the greatest country in the world. I sincerely hope I’ll earn an opportunity to represent Team USA again in the future.”

Harden, 26, was a reserve on the 2012 Olympic team behind Kobe Bryant, averaging 9.1 minutes per game in London. He started all nine games at the 2014 FIBA World Cup and led the U.S. in scoring (14.2 points per game).

The U.S. is now without any guards with Olympic experience, unless one counts Andre Iguodala as a guard.

The U.S. finalist pool is down to six players with Olympic experience. The 2012 Olympic team brought back five players with Olympic experience.

Here are the remaining finalists:

Carmelo Anthony — 2004, 2008, 2012 Olympics
LeBron James — 2004, 2008, 2012 Olympics
Kevin Durant — 2012 Olympics
Andre Iguodala — 2012 Olympics
Kevin Love — 2012 Olympics
Dwight Howard — 2008 Olympics
DeMarcus Cousins — 2014 World Cup
DeMar DeRozan — 2014 World Cup
Andre Drummond — 2014 World Cup
Kenneth Faried — 2014 World Cup
Rudy Gay — 2014 World Cup, 2010 World Cup
Kyrie Irving — 2014 World Cup
Klay Thompson — 2014 World Cup
Harrison Barnes
Bradley Beal
Jimmy Butler
Mike Conley
Paul George
Draymond Green
Gordon Hayward
DeAndre Jordan
Kawhi Leonard
Damian Lillard

MORE: Wiggins skips Canada Olympic qualifying

Ski jumping World Cup season kicks off in Poland

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The World Cup ski jump season opens Friday with men’s team and individual events in Wisla, Poland.

The host country had three of the top five jumpers in the overall standings last year. Defending champion Kamil Stoch placed third, Piotr Zyla was close behind in fourth, and Dawid Kubacki was fifth.

Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi dominated last year’s competition, finishing with 2,085 points to 1,349 for runner-up Stefan Kraft of Austria, the 2017 World Cup champion.

Kobayashi’s performance was a dramatic improvement over his previous season, when he finished no higher than sixth in any individual competition and was 24th overall. Last year, he had 15 wins and 23 podium finishes in 30 World Cup events, though he only managed fourth and 14th in the two world championship events.

The top American last season, Kevin Bickner, finished 51st overall, a drop from 39th the year before. He was 18th and 20th in the 2018 Olympic jumps.

Women’s World Cup action begins Dec. 6-8 in Lillehammer, Norway.

NBC Sports Gold will broadcast World Cup action throughout the season. This weekend, the qualifying jumps will air at noon ET Friday, the team event starts at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday, and the individual competition is at 6 a.m. Sunday.

MORE: Full ski jumping broadcast schedule

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Snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter dies at 65

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Jake Burton Carpenter, the pioneer who brought snowboarding to the masses and helped turn the sport into a billion-dollar business and Olympic showpiece, has died at 65.

He died Wednesday night in Burlington, Vermont, according to an email sent to the staff of the company he founded. Carpenter had emailed his staff this month saying, “You will not believe this, but my cancer has come back.” He had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011 but after several months of therapy had been given a clean bill of health.

Carpenter quit his job in New York in 1977 to form the company now known simply as Burton. His goal was to advance the rudimentary snowboard, then called a “Snurfer,” which had been invented by Sherman Poppen a dozen years earlier.

It worked, and more than four decades later, snowboarding is a major fixture at the Winter Games and snowboards are as common as skis at resorts across the globe.

“He was our founder, the soul of snowboarding, the one who gave us the sport we all love so much,” Burton co-CEO John Lacy said in his email to the staff.

It is virtually impossible to avoid the name “Burton” once the snow starts falling at any given mountain around the world these days. The name is plastered on the bottoms of snowboards, embroidered on jackets, stenciled into bindings.

At a bar in Pyeongchang, South Korea, not far from where snowboarding celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Olympics last year, there was a wall filled with Burton pictures and memorabilia — as sure a sign as any of the global reach of a company founded in his garage in Londonderry, Vermont.

The company sponsored pretty much every top rider at one time or another — from Shaun White to Kelly Clark to Chloe Kim.

Carpenter watched all his champions win their Olympic golds from near the finish line, never afraid to grind away in the mosh pit of snowboarders and snowboarding fans that he helped create.

In an interview in 2010, he said he was happy with how far his sport had come, and comfortable with where it was going.

“I had a vision there was a sport there, that it was more than just a sledding thing, which is all it was then,” Burton said. “We’re doing something that’s going to last here. It’s not like just hitting the lottery one day.”

Lacy said details about the celebration of Burton’s life would be coming soon but, for now, “I’d encourage everyone to do what Jake would be doing tomorrow, and that’s riding. It’s opening day at Stowe, so consider taking some turns together, in celebration of Jake.”

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