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LeBron James’ Olympic stance unswayed by U.S. failure at FIBA World Cup

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Since the U.S. flamed out of the FIBA World Cup two weeks ago, a host of NBA superstars declared some level of intent to play for the U.S. Olympic team next year: Stephen CurryJames HardenRussell Westbrook and Anthony Davis to name the most high profile.

LeBron James stopped short of saying he planned to be in Tokyo in July. He was asked about it Friday.

“Team USA? Um … I don’t know,” James said. “See how I can do throughout this season. I will address that at some point, hopefully have an opportunity to have a conversation with Coach [Gregg Popovich].”

While James was named to a preliminary 35-man national team player pool in April, along with every other top American, he hasn’t publicly committed to accepting one of the 12 roster spots, should he be offered one.

James, who turns 35 on Dec. 30, will be older come the Tokyo Opening Ceremony than all but one previous U.S. Olympic men’s basketball player (Larry Bird). He announced six weeks before the Rio Games that he would skip that tournament rather than play at the Games for a fourth straight time.

But James could be swayed with Popovich taking over for Mike Krzyzewski this Olympic cycle. He has called Popovich the greatest coach in the league and said that the Spurs’ leader’s hiring “factors a lot” into his decision on Tokyo 2020.

MORE: Kobe Bryant: Redeem Team 2 might not be enough

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Caster Semenya leads Olympians in Time 100; streak hits 16 years

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An Olympian has made the Time 100 Most Influential list every year since its annual inception in 2004. South African runner Caster Semenya, soccer players Alex Morgan and Mo Salah and LeBron James kept the streak going in 2019.

It’s the fourth appearance for James (2005, 2013, 2017), extending his record for an athlete, and the first for Semenya, Morgan and Salah. Semenya made it in the “icons” category, while the other three are “titans.”

Two-time Olympic 400m hurdles champion Edwin Moses penned an essay about the two-time Olympic 800m champion Semenya, who is fighting a legal battle with the IAAF over a potential rule change limiting women’s testosterone levels in her events. If the rule goes into effect, Semenya’s dominance (three years undefeated at 800m) is expected to vanish.

“Caster Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary, and caused us to question the justness of distributing societal benefits according to “male” and “female” classifications,” Moses wrote. “Ultimately, this incredibly difficult issue is a political one for sport to resolve. But however it is addressed, Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”

Here are Olympians and Paralympians on past Time 100 lists, counting only athletes who competed in the Games before being listed:

2018 — Kevin Durant, Roger Federer, Chloe Kim, Adam Rippon
2017 — Simone Biles, LeBron James, Neymar
2016 — Usain BoltCaitlyn JennerKatie LedeckySania MirzaRonda Rousey
2015 — Abby Wambach
2014 — Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams
2013 — LeBron James, Li Na, Lindsey Vonn
2012 — Novak DjokovicLionel MessiOscar Pistorius
2011 — Lionel Messi
2010 — Yuna KimSerena Williams
2009 — Rafael Nadal
2008 — Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius
2007 — Roger FedererChien Ming-Wang
2006 — Joey CheekSteve Nash
2005 — LeBron James
2004 — Lance Armstrong, Paula Radcliffe, Yao Ming
2000 (20th Century) — Muhammad Ali

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LeBron James takes in Berlin track meet, his latest Olympic sports mix

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LeBron James met fellow Olympic champions runner Caster Semenya and discus thrower Robert Harting at a track and field meet at Berlin’s historic Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

James, in Germany as part of a Nike promotional tour, was later reading about Jesse Owens on the way to an airport, according to one of his friends’ Instagram accounts.

James is an experienced Olympic sports spectator. He attended swimming finals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, sitting with Dara Torres in Beijing.

At Beijing’s Water Cube, Michael Phelps said he heard James and Kobe Bryant ”starting cheers and getting everybody going” as he chased Mark Spitz‘s record of seven gold medals in the pool, according to The New York Times.

In London, James and another swimmer, relay gold medalist Lauren Perdue, were joined in headlines after she turned down his invitation to eat with her at the dining hall.

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James also took in beach volleyball in Beijing with Jason KiddKobe BryantChris Paul and Carlos Boozer.

James, Bryant and Paul all became acquainted with Phelps, sharing conversations in Phelps’ retirement. Fellow swimmer Jason Lezak also provided this story from Beijing:

“I remember leaving the pool, and we were all in the elevator together, me and all these NBA guys,” Lezak said. “I was like, this is so cool. Kobe says to me, ‘Right before the elevator stops, check this out, I’m going to sit here in the back, LeBron’s going to walk out and get swamped, and I’m going to get right on the bus.’ LeBron was swarmed. Sure enough, Kobe sneaks right onto the bus.”

Similar stories date to the first Olympics with NBA players in 1992 — such as Larry Bird and the Dream Team meeting U.S. female gymnasts on a bus in Barcelona. Or 4-foot-6 gymnast Ragan Smith taking a photo with 6-foot-11 center DeAndre Jordan in Rio.

Also in Barcelona, Karl Malone befriended Oscar De La Hoya and huddled with the boxer’s family during his first bout en route to gold. Bird went to a U.S. baseball game and met the players in the dugout, according to Sports Illustrated.

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