Men’s Fitness caught up with the 2012 men’s Olympic basketball team at the Nike World Basketball Festival in Washington D.C. where we sat down with LeBron James to find out what’s on the King’s mind as the Olympics draw closer.
Tell us about the chemistry of the team? Is it coming together in the short time you have before the Olympics?
LeBron James: Absolutely. It’s coming together because we’ve got five guys from the ’08 team and I think we’ve got five guys from the World Championship team and we’ve got the same coaching staff, so it wasn’t hard for us to come over with the chemistry right away.
What’s it like playing alongside Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden after recently facing the Thunder in the Finals?
I loved competing against them in the Finals and I love being teammates with them. They’re great. They’re three of the best players we have in our league—all on the same team. To get together and join forces with them in such a proud moment in our sport is amazing.
How are you all getting along so far?
I love ‘em. They’re great.
Can you describe your role on this team?
I don’t have a role. I do whatever. I do everything. I just try to put myself in a position out on the floor to succeed. Whatever position the coach puts me in, whether it’s Coach [Erik] Spoelstra or Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski], I try to thrive in it.
How do you see yourself fitting into this team compared to the team that went to Beijing in ’08?
I didn’t play much in ’04. In ’08 I was kind of in control of the defense with my talking, and also offensively. It’s kind of the same now. I’m still going to be the voice of the defense, and do whatever it takes both offensively and defensively to help us win.
Compare this team with the ’92 Dream Team.
I don’t compare the teams. I didn’t really get an opportunity to watch them play. I was eight years old. They had great players, we’ve got great players. They had champions, we have champions. They’re both teams that are very, very well put together.
In ’92, Magic Johnson said he was the “Big Dog” on the team. Who’s the big dog in 2012?
We’ve got 12 of them. We’ve got 12 big dogs. That’s what makes an Olympic team.
What are your thoughts on the new rule about players having to be 23 or under to compete on the U.S. Olympic basketball team? What about Blake Griffin’s injury, which means that he may never get the chance to play for an Olympic gold medal?
I’m not in control of that. If that’s going to be the rule, then that’s going to be the rule. We’ve got great guys that are under the age of 23 as well, so we’ll see what happens.
What do you think is harder—winning an Olympic gold medal or an NBA Championship?
They both have their own difficulties. Winning a gold medal was extremely tough for us in ’08 and winning the championship this year was extremely tough.
What do you tell the younger players who are competing in the Olympics for the first time?
I tell them to have fun with it. This opportunity doesn’t come to you every year, of course, or even every four years. You’ve got the opportunity, so just go for it and be proud to represent your country.
What is basketball for you?
It’s love. It’s my inspiration. It’s everything. Basketball is my life.