LeBron thinking of skipping Olympics? - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

LeBron thinking of skipping Olympics?

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant (Source: AP Images, Tony Dejak) LeBron James and Kobe Bryant (Source: AP Images, Tony Dejak)
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have been Olympic teammates twice, in 2008 and 2012. There will not be a third shared gold medal, as Bryant, playing in his 20th and final NBA season, pulled out of consideration a month ago.

"Since my retirement announcement, I'm able to watch these guys in a different light," Bryant said in mid-January. "I've come to terms with the fact that they are the future of this game. These are the guys who deserve the spots in Rio. These are the guys who people need to watch and root for. These are the guys to show fans where this game is going in the future."

And now the question is, will LeBron head to Rio without him? Much was made of James' respect for the 18-time All-Star this week, as Bryant played at Quicken Loans Arena for the final time. The two embraced at the final buzzer, and Bryant showed up in the Cavaliers locker room shortly after with another pair of shoes for LeBron, which Kobe signed on the spot (Bryant had given a teenage LeBron a pair of his shoes back in 2002). Now there's speculation that James will skip the Olympics in Brazil as another sign of respect to Bryant.

LeBron was quoted as saying "The last time I thought about Team USA was Kobe taking his name out of the pool." That doesn't mean LeBron won't suit up for his country again. It also doesn't mean a decision is coming anytime soon. James wants to take care of business with the Cavaliers first, and then see how he feels. But the goal for the Cavaliers is to play (and win) into June. That's a lot of basketball. And if it plays out that way, it may give LeBron the perfect 'out'.

Not that he needs one. His respect for Kobe may be all the motivation he needs.

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