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Will LeBron James play at the Olympics? He doesn’t know

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LeBron James was named one of 44 finalists for the U.S. Olympic basketball team on Monday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will accept a roster spot come June.

“My name is in the hat, and It’s always predicated on, one, my body, how my body’s feeling at the end of the season. I hope to make it a long playoff run,” James said after the Los Angeles Lakers’ 125-100 win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night. “Then where my mind is, and then where my family’s head is. So there’s a lot of factors, but my name is in the hat.”

James’ stance sounded unchanged from before the NBA season, when he also stopped short of saying he planned to be in Tokyo.

“Team USA? Um … I don’t know,” he said on Sept. 27. “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 Pop [Gregg Popovich].”

At 35, James will be older come the Tokyo Opening Ceremony than all but one previous U.S. Olympic men’s basketball player: Larry Bird in 1992.

He skipped the 2016 Rio Games to rest after leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title. Other stars also missed the Rio Olympics for various reasons, including Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, all fellow Tokyo finalists.

Perhaps a player even more valuable to Team USA is James’ Lakers teammate Anthony Davis. Davis said Monday night that he did not know whether he would accept a roster spot.

“I’m getting old,” the 26-year-old said, smiling.

Davis spoke at greater length when asked before the season.

“I want to play USA Basketball,” he said Sept. 27. “If I get the opportunity to do so, they invite me, I definitely would love to do so. So, hopefully, guys are listening. So Pop, I’m ready.”

If the U.S. is thin anywhere, it’s at center. Neither of the 2016 Olympic centers is a Tokyo finalist (injured DeMarcus Cousins and healthy DeAndre Jordan). Outside of Davis, none of the NBA’s All-Star centers this season are Americans: Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Rudy Gobert (France), Nikola Jokic (Serbia) and Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania).

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

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Kobe Bryant embraced the Olympics, on and off the court

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Kobe Bryant developed a special relationship with Team USA, international basketball and the Olympic Games themselves.

Bryant was among those who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Grief spread worldwide, showing the impact he had across international sport. Images of Bryant meeting Olympians from gymnastics, swimming, track and field, even Alpine skiing, some from him attending their competitions, dotted social media.

Bryant earned gold medals as a leader of the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic basketball teams. He said before debuting at the Games that he valued a gold medal above an NBA championship.

In 2008, he helped spur the Redeem Team to gold in Beijing. He sat down with NBC Sports’ Cris Collinsworth for an interview, describing what it meant to him to receive the USA jersey for the first time.

“I had goosebumps, and I actually just looked at it for a while,” said Bryant, who put off surgery on a torn ligament in his right pinkie finger to play in 2008. “I just held it there, and I laid it across my bed. I just stared at it for a few minutes. Just because, as a kid growing up, this is the ultimate, ultimate in basketball.”

Bryant’s first Olympic game came in a special environment — in Beijing against China.

“When I look up in the crowd, and I see all the USA flags waving and people chanting USA, it gives you goosebumps,” he said. “When I heard the national anthem, I teared up a little bit, and I had to gather myself.”

Bryant stayed close to the Olympic Movement in retirement.

He attended the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials for women’s gymnastics, meeting the team members. He appeared at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggle Awards, helping raise money for the national governing body’s foundation. He was the final voice in the Los Angeles Olympic bid presentation to the IOC two years ago.

Bryant’s last words in that video, before the IOC later awarded the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 Olympics to Los Angeles: “To have the Olympics here, and to have so many different cultures represented, would be a beautiful story to tell.”

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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