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CLEVELAND, May 14 – Cavaliers guard LeBron James has accepted an invitation from USA Basketball to join the 2004 USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team that will compete in the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
James, the 2004 got milk? NBA Rookie of the Year, is the first player to be named to the USA Olympic team as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He will also become the NBA’s first rookie and youngest player to join the national team since professional players started competing at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992.
“I am honored to be invited to participate on the U.S. Olympic team. It’s a dream come true for me to represent my country,” stated James, who will be 19-years, seven months and 13 days old when the ‘04 Olympics open on Aug.13 making him the youngest USA male basketball player to participate in the Olympics since Spencer Haywood in 1968 (Haywood was 19 years, five months and 26 days old at the start of the '68 games). “I look forward to joining my fellow Americans and competing against the best basketball players in the world. I am excited to have the opportunity to play for Larry Brown and his staff. I have great respect for coach Brown, and we have an Akron, Ohio connection.”
Before playing five seasons in the NBA, Brown played two seasons (1963-65) with the Akron Wingfoots of the National Alliance of Basketball Leagues. Brown was selected to the 1964 USA Olympic team while leading the Wingfoots to the 1964 AAU National Championship.
Prior to the inclusion of professional players in 1992, seven former Cavaliers had represented the USA in Olympic competition as collegians: Jim Brewer (Minnesota) in the 1972 Olympics, Phil Hubbard (Michigan) and Kenny Carr (N.C. State) in 1976, Darnell Valentine (Kansas) in 1980, and Dan Majerle (Central Michigan), J.R. Reid (North Carolina) and Bimbo Coles (Virginia Tech) in 1988.
"This is a reflection of the respect that LeBron has earned very quickly throughout the NBA and the entire basketball community," Cavaliers President and General Manager of Basketball Operations Jim Paxson said. "It's a privilege for him to represent our country and we couldn't be happier for him.
LeBron thrives on challenges and the preparation and competition provided in the Olympic forum should result in a very positive experience for him."
James averaged 20.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds in 79 games during the 2003-04 season, becoming just the third rookie in NBA history to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists (M. Jordan, O. Robertson). The No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft, James helped the Cavaliers more than double their win total from 17 in 2002-03 to 35 this past season.
“We are thrilled for LeBron," Cavaliers Head Coach Paul Silas said. "It's a tremendous honor for him, and a great opportunity to represent our country and the Cavaliers. LeBron has an uncanny ability to learn very quickly. I think this will be an invaluable experience, not only because of the competition, but because every day in practice he will be around many of the game's best players".
Training camp for the national team begins July 26 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. The team will play a six-game pre-tournament schedule during stops in Cologne, Germany (Aug. 1-4); Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro (Aug. 5-6); and Istanbul, Turkey (Aug. 7-12).
The 2004 Olympic men’s basketball competition takes place Aug. 15-28 in Athens. The USA men will compete in Group B with Angola, Australia, Greece, Lithuania and Puerto Rico. Group A consists of Argentina, China, Italy, New Zealand, Serbia & Montenegro and Spain.
The USA team opens preliminary play in the 2004 Olympics on Aug. 15 against Puerto Rico, and then plays Greece on Aug. 17, Australia on Aug. 19, Lithuania on Aug. 21 and closes preliminary play against Angola on Aug. 23. The quarterfinals are slated for Aug. 25, with the semifinals on Aug. 27 and the final games to determine first through eighth places on Aug. 28.
The USA Basketball Selection Committee also announced today the additions of Richard Jefferson (New Jersey Nets), Stephon Marbury (New York Knicks), Shawn Marion (Phoenix Suns) and Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns) to the 2004 USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team. The five additions join Mike Bibby (Sacramento Kings), Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs), Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers), Jason Kidd (New Jersey Nets), Karl Malone (Los Angeles Lakers), Tracy McGrady (Orlando Magic) and Jermaine O'Neal (Indiana Pacers) on the Team USA roster.
The USA has won 25 straight games and is 109-2 in Olympic competition.