A starstudded Team USA basketball squad is gearing up for what is bound to be another entertaining run at a gold medal in the Olympics. Although Tokyo, Japan is in a state of emergency due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the games are scheduled to be played with some of the NBA’s best ready to sport the red, white and blue.
Among the stars set to suit up for Team USA is Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum. The 23-year-old hopes to follow in Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s footsteps in Tokyo as he’ll wear the iconic No. 10 jersey. Tatum recently talked about wearing Bryant’s number and what it means to him as he embarks on his quest to win a gold medal, via Sports Illustrated.
“With this being the first Olympics since we lost him, it holds that much more value,” Tatum said. “It’s not something I take lightly.”
Tatum is one of the up-and-coming stars in today’s NBA who had the opportunity to work with Bryant to improve his game. The Celtics star was like a sponge when it came to soaking up the knowledge from the two-time gold medalist and five-time NBA champion. His determination to honor Bryant during the Olympics hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates.
Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo chimed in on what he’s seen from Tatum over the years and how special it will be to honor the Lakers legend this summer.
“For JT to have this moment, I’m happy for him, genuinely,” U.S. center Bam Adebayo said. “I’ve known JT since I was 12. He deserves everything he’s getting and he’s going to keep deserving more because he’s such a great player. I’m happy for him. That’s his idol, and he gets to represent that number. I know he’s going to have that Mamba Mentality when he puts that 10 on.”
Along with Tatum, Gregg Popovich’s squad will consist of many other NBA stars, including another Bryant disciple in Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns who will join the team after the NBA Finals have concluded.
Other notable members of the Team USA squad this time around include Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Draymond Green.
Although many of these players have something to prove on the Olympic stage, Tatum is definitely not taking things lightly in Tokyo, as Bryant will be on his mind every time he dawns the No. 10 jersey.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Tatum said. “And I’ll wear it proudly.”
On July 10, the first of five exhibition games will begin for Team USA as they’ll face Nigeria. They’ll also take on Australia twice, Argentina and Spain in Las Vegas, Nevada, before making the trip to Tokyo.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis won’t be playing for Team USA
After a season riddled with injuries and disappointment, LeBron James and Anthony Davis have passed on the opportunity to play for Team USA during the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Both players dealt with injuries that impacted the outcome of the season and would prefer some much-needed rest rather than traveling to Japan and putting more miles on their bodies before the 2021-22 NBA season in October.