The number on the practice jersey was different — 27 — but it was the same ol’ No. 23 holding court at the Mendenhall Center.
LeBron James showed up Wednesday, practiced with the rest of the USA Basketball men’s national team and left the Las Vegas minicamp later in the evening, his commitment to Team USA for the summer having been fulfilled. The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar said if all goes well, expect to see him in uniform next summer in Brazil when the Americans make a run at a third straight Olympic gold medal.
“I’ll talk it over with my family, and I’ll see how my health is,” James told a cluster of reporters after the 45-minute workout. “If everything checks out, I’ll be there.”
James was relaxed, and with his two sons in tow, he renewed friendships with Team USA veterans as well as interacting with some newcomers to the national team program.
“I love being here with these guys,” said James, who along with Carmelo Anthony is looking to participate in a fourth Olympics with Team USA. “I’ve been part of the red, white and blue since I was 18 years old.
“We’re trying to build something that can last forever. We’ve got veterans here. We’ve got first-timers. This isn’t a one-all thing. This is something we’re going to do every single year.”
National team head coach Mike Krzyzewski said having James participate, even though it was a light workout, was important.
“It’s huge having LeBron here,” Krzyzewski said. “When we talk about LeBron, we don’t talk about a guy who’s playing for USA Basketball. We’re talking about someone, along with Carmelo, Chris (Paul) and (Kevin) Durant, who is USA Basketball. They have ownership.
“LeBron’s made an amazing commitment to our program that goes beyond winning. He’s been a leader. He’s such a good guy. It was great to see him on the floor and participating.”
USA Basketball chairman and national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said: “When you talk about equity, nobody has more equity than LeBron going back to ’04. And since we put in the new infrastructure in ’05, he’s been with us every year. So I’m not surprised, and I’m very pleased to see him here. It’s another sign that USA Basketball is on a good roll.”
James will not play in tonight’s Blue-White scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center. But he said he’s proud to have brought USA Basketball back to the top and wants to have a hand in maintaining the Americans’ standing as the world’s best team.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “I love the game of basketball, and it’s always good to be on the floor with these guys.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.