- Last Updated: 7:29 AM, August 12, 2012
- Posted: 12:49 AM, August 12, 2012
LONDON — You can wake up this morning and feel good about rooting for LeBron James, on the verge of winning a gold medal today to pair with the NBA championship, his first, he won in late June.
James yesterday gave his most emphatic reason why he plays and why today matters as the surging U.S. Olympic team gets its expected rematch with Spain and the Gasol Brothers in the gold-medal game (10 a.m. EDT) .
“It’s not just about basketball,’’ James said after the team’s final practice. “It’s about a lot of other things. People give up their freedoms for us to do what we do, and do it without pressure. You talk about pressure? We have all the soldiers going out, fighting for our freedom. This is the least what we can do is give them something to cheer for [today].’’
James’ remarks came days after three U.S. Marines were killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan — one a former West Point hockey star. USA coach Mike Krzyzewski played and coached at West Point.
During this Dream-Team era, some American players — mostly before 9/11 — complained about giving up their summers for the Olympic movement. Even Dwyane Wade, who is not here because of injury, said recently players should be paid for their involvement. Not James. After grinding out the NBA’s condensed lockout season all the way to the finals, he is here, leading and dominating.
James has been Team USA’s MVP. When Lithuania gave the USA its gigantic 99-94 scare eight days ago, James put the team on his shoulders and won the game. The Americans haven’t been challenged since, and that moment stands as the team’s most important during these Games.
“The word has gotten out on what it means,’’ James said. “It’s more than the names on the backs. It’s all about the [USA] name on the front. And I have a responsibility to be a role model to a lot of kids who have hopes and dreams.’’
The team has been together since the start of training camp July 5 in Las Vegas.
“I knew what it was going to be,’’ James said. “I hoped to compete for the championship. ... I already committed to the team. I knew it would be a long summer. I knew what I had to get my body prepared for. Of course, I would’ve loved to rest. Everybody would like to do absolutely nothing, but I got a responsibility and I’m here.’’
With Krzyzewski loathe to give his only center, Tyson Chandler, extended minutes because the coach loves smallball, James will, at times today, defend Spain’s 7-foot center, Marc Gasol. Gasol didn’t play in the USA’s exhibition victory over Spain before the Olympics.Follow @NYPostsports