Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook announced Friday that he will not participate in Rio with the USA Olympic basketball team. The five-time All-Star and 2016 All-NBA First Team selection did not cite specific reasons for his decision.
“After speaking with my family, I have decided to not participate in this year’s Olympics. This was not an easy decision, as representing my country at the World Championships in 2010 and the Olympics in 2012 were career highlights for me. I look forward to future opportunities as a member of USA Basketball.” Westbrook said in a statement.
Another point guard, Westbrook’s former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate James Harden, also backed out on Friday night.
“As a result of many difficult conversations with my family, the Rockets, and trusted advisors, I’ve notified Jerry Colangelo and Team USA that I will not be competing at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Brazil. This decision was a painstaking one that I did not take lightly. As a member of the 2012 London Olympic Gold Medal Team, and as Team Captain for the 2014 FIBA Gold Medal Team, it goes without saying that USA Basketball has provided me with some of the most meaningful personal and professional accomplishments of my life. I have been extremely blessed to wear the “red, white, and blue” and to compete at the highest international level with the greatest players representing the greatest country in the world. I sincerely hope I’ll earn an opportunity to represent Team USA again in the future,” Harden revealed in a statement released during the second quarter of NBA Finals Game 4.
Westbrook and Harden join several high-profile players, including a relatively high number of point guards such as Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, and John Wall, who have already decided not to participate in the Rio Olympics. While there are still quite a few options for the backcourt — Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James, and Mike Conley — some of them are still on the fence about participating, and only a few are legitimate point guards.
None of the players have mentioned the Zika virus outbreak as a factor in their decision to back out, but high-profile players not making the trip could become a tipping point for a widespread reaction to the scare.