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Team USA basketball – Paris Olympics will be a first for LeBron, Curry and Durant

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Team USA basketball – Paris Olympics will be a first for LeBron, Curry and Durant

The first partnership between LeBron James and Stephen Curry in international play began with a phone call in the fall.

That’s when, as Curry recalled, the two longtime NBA rivals spoke about the possibility of teaming up at the 2024 Paris Olympics and joining forces on arguably the greatest collection of talent in basketball history.

“He was the first person I talked to,” Curry said Sunday afternoon of his conversation with James. “‘Would this be something I would want to do?’ And from there it was like, ‘Let’s get it.'”

For all that Curry, James and fellow future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant have achieved in their careers, they have yet to play together for Team USA. Curry played with Durant during gold-medal runs in the 2010 and 2014 World Championships. James and Durant, meanwhile, won gold at the 2012 London Olympics.

But this summer, the trio of superstars, now deep into their 30s, will take the floor together in international play for the first time. But don’t call it a “last hurrah.”

“Nah,” Durant told ESPN with a smile, when asked if that was how he viewed finally pairing up with both James and Curry on this team. “These guys are still playing at an elite level. I feel like Bron could play 4 or 5 more and be here in 2028 in [the Los Angeles Olympics]. Steph’s still playing great ball. I’m doing all right, too.

“I don’t want this to be a farewell tour or make it just about us three. It’s about trying to win this fifth in a row.”

Heading into Wednesday’s Olympics tune-up against Canada in Las Vegas (10:30 p.m. ET), Team USA is a heavy favorite to win that fifth straight gold medal — in part because of the presence of the NBA’s three biggest American stars. Durant can become the first man to claim four Olympic basketball gold medals, having been part of the past three winning Olympic teams. James, his 40th birthday on the horizon, can add a third gold medal to an already impressive international résumé.

And then there’s Curry, who, after 15 seasons in the NBA, is preparing for his Olympic debut.

“Yeah, it’s really cool,” Curry said. “I’ve played with Team USA before on the world championship stage, but I don’t know what to expect when it comes to this challenge and this experience. And so I had the first-practice jitters. I’m sure I’ll have it for the game [Wednesday] just because I know it means so much. …

“Add the surrealness of who is on this team and all the battles that we’ve had over the course of our careers and the fact that we get to put that energy together as teammates. So I’m enjoying every minute of this.”

A sense of awe has permeated throughout the first few days of Team USA training camp. Past Olympic rosters have boasted plenty of talent, but there’s a reason this group has been compared — at times favorably — to the fabled 1992 Dream Team.

“Do you see this team?” center Bam Adebayo, playing in his second Olympics after winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Games, said Sunday. “When you put [together] a team like this, and you get compared to, like, the Dream Team, it kind of puts it in perspective how great this team can be if we play the right way.”

“We got LeBron, KD and Steph,” Team USA first-timer Anthony Edwards said. “So I don’t feel like nobody can beat those three by themselves on the court.

“So I mean, you mix in two of us regular guys, we’ll be all right.”

It has been striking to see Curry and James finally sharing the court for Team USA after their historic playoff battles: four straight NBA Finals showdowns from 2015 to 2018 and again in the 2023 Western Conference semifinals, where James’ Los Angeles Lakers knocked out Curry and the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

“It was like a healthy resentment of somebody that’s standing in your way,” Curry said of his playoff battles against James. “But through it all, there’s obviously the utmost respect for who he is as a person and player and like how good he is and the challenge of trying to beat him and trying to solve that problem every year.”

Added James: “I know how much he loves to win and how much he loves to be in competition. We’ve always had like these short moments like either All-Star Games or whatever the case may be, where we had these short pockets of time together and it’s been super organic and easy.”

Curry, James and Durant have spent much of the past two decades fighting against one another for NBA supremacy. For the next six weeks, they’ll play side by side and try to enjoy the process of the trio’s first — and possibly only — Olympic run together on the international stage.

“I can’t speak for those two guys, but for me it’s going to be ecstatic excitement, a humbling wow factor,” James told ESPN. “The last 15, 17, 18 years, myself, Steph, KD, have been the talk of the NBA. …

“We don’t know how many more opportunities we’re going to have to even play the game. So to be able to have this moment at this point in our careers is just super special.”

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