(Reuters) - USA Basketball suffered a shock exit at the recent World Cup but their hopes of rebounding at the next major international event were given a welcome boost as Stephen Curry declared that he wants to make his Olympic debut.
The Americans’ streak of five consecutive major tournament titles came to a halt last week when they fell in the quarter-finals to France with a roster comprised of mostly second-tier players.
Curry, widely considered one of the best basketball players on the planet, was one of many big-name Americans who did not participate in the World Cup but has committed to wearing the red, white and blue at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
"That is the plan, for sure," Curry said in an interview with ESPN here published on Wednesday. "You know, obviously knock on wood, you don't want any injuries or things like that to interfere."
International basketball availability is always an iffy proposition outside of the Olympics, and especially when it comes to the World Cup since the tournament is held so close to the start of the NBA season.
The lack of star power on the latest installment of Team USA marked a low point in the country’s basketball history as the defending champions’ seventh-place result marked their worst finish in a tournament to which it sent NBA players.
USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo called out the no-shows and said he will not forget those who backed out of commitments to play in the World Cup when it comes to assembling the roster for Tokyo.
“Definitely wanna go,” Curry, a three-times NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors, said.
“I’ve never been on the Olympic team. I’ve been on two World Cup championship gold-medal teams. But the Olympics is the experience that I want. And next year will hopefully be it.”
Gold medals in basketball no longer come as easy for Team USA as other nations are giving more of a fight but even without Curry and LeBron James at the 2016 Rio Olympics they blitzed through the tournament with a spectacular 8-0 record.
At full strength, Team USA will be near impossible to beat as they chase a fourth consecutive Olympic gold and perhaps the early commitment from Curry will convince others to chose the national team over a restful offseason.
“We’re still the best,” Curry said. “If we get the guys that are supposed to be there, in terms of representing us in the Olympic stage and the commitment’s been there, and I think it’ll be there next year.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond