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How Are the Olympics-Dodging NBA Stars Enjoying Their Summer?

And are they better off having not represented their country in Rio?

Getty Images
Getty Images

We’ve met the Snapchat Squad, but what about the Absentee Team? For myriad reasons, an unusually high number of NBA players skipped this year’s Olympics, and it’s high time we checked in on their summer whereabouts. What have they been doing in lieu of traveling to Rio? Are they playing any basketball? Do they just hate America? Let’s find out, and grade them on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 denoting “This is absolutely better than hoping Rio’s conditions aren’t as bad as everyone is saying.”

LeBron James

Previous Olympic experience: 2004 (bronze), 2008 (gold), 2012 (gold)

Why did he withdraw? After six consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, LeBron decided that he needed some rest. Understandable.

What has he been doing in his free time? When he’s not chasing Michael Jordan’s ghost, LeBron has spent his summer cheering on his son’s AAU team, promoting the shit out of Survivor’s Remorse, and vacationing with the banana boat crew.

Representative social media post: Remember that low-carb diet LeBron used to be on? Looks like that’s a thing of the past. Behold the wonders of his 16-topping pizza:

Grade: 16/10

Russell Westbrook

Previous Olympic experience: 2012 (gold)

Why did he withdraw? Westbrook was vague about his reasons for skipping out on Rio, saying only that it “was not an easy decision” and that it came “after speaking with my family.” Perhaps he was emotionally preparing for the possibility of Kevin Durant’s departure? In any case, it was probably the right move. He’s spared Team USA’s PR staff from having to cover up an international incident between the two former teammates out in Rio.

What has he been doing in his free time? Like the rest of us, Westbrook has been holed up reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. He even got dressed up for the occasion!

In far less important news, he also agreed to a contract extension with the Thunder.

Representative social media post: Did you know that Westbrook is friends with Bryan Cranston?

You don’t refer to someone as “my man” unless you’re actually tight with them, right? I like to imagine that Russ got a little too obsessed with Breaking Bad and approached Cranston about starting an ACTUAL meth empire, incessantly shouting “BITCH” and rolling up in a 1984 Toyota Tercel. Cranston, an actor and L.A. sports fan, is likely well aware of Westbrook’s 110 percent commitment to all he does; he probably chickened out and ignored Russ’s follow-up texts. I like to believe this is an incredibly one-sided “friendship.”

Grade: 9/10

Blake Griffin

Previous Olympic experience: None (He made Team USA in 2012, but tore his meniscus in practice and didn’t play in London.)

Why did he withdraw? Griffin reaggravated a quad injury in the playoffs and was promptly ruled out of Rio.

What has he been doing in his free time? He’s been honing his stand-up comedy act in clubs across North America. Last week, he performed at Montreal’s Just for Laughs:

Not bad! A few more guest spots on Broad City and he might be ready for his own Netflix special.

Representative social media posts: Griffin wasn’t above trolling Ken Rosenthal for his incorrect Yasiel Puig report, and thank god for that:

In fact, the role of sources in sports media is one of his favorite topics to tweet about. Plenty of players go on to be analysts, but Blake might have a future as an information broker:

Grade: 10/10

Stephen Curry

Previous Olympic experience: None

Why did he withdraw? Curry opted to stay home “due to several factors,” chief among them his “recent ankle and knee injuries.”

What has he been doing in his free time? Raising hell on the golf course:

In addition to dancing, Curry threw a mouthguard at fans at July’s American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe, and finger-wagged Justin Timberlake:

Representative social media post:

It’s official: Silicon Valley has fully corrupted Steph. What’s next, a fishing trip with Peter Thiel?

Grade: 4/10

Chris Paul

Previous Olympic experience: 2008 (gold), 2012 (gold)

Why did he withdraw? Paul was one of the first stars to rebuff Team USA, citing a need for rest back in March. (Imagine how tired CP3 would be if the Clippers ever advanced past the conference semis!)

What has he been doing in his free time? Getting owned by a 53-year-old man at a hoops camp.

Representative social media post: Paul isn’t particularly good at social media, but he’s great at promotional posters, so let’s call it a wash:

Grade: 6/10

James Harden

Previous Olympic experience: 2012 (gold)

Why did he withdraw? After leading the NBA in minutes this past season, Harden just wanted to “take some time off” and “kind of clear my mind.” Dwight Howard tends to have that effect on people.

What has he been doing in his free time? Harden has been chatting extensively with his Twitter followers. He’s had a slow summer.

Representative social media post:

Shots fired at Josh Smith?!

Grade: 5/10

Gordon Hayward

Previous Olympic experience: None

Why did he withdraw? Hayward was one of the few players to cite the threat of Zika as a reason for missing the games, in addition to unspecified “family obligations.”

What has he been doing in his free time? Those family obligations were legit — in July, Hayward’s wife gave birth to the couple’s second daughter, so fatherhood has been keeping him busy. When he’s not changing diapers or playing peekaboo, he’s streaming himself playing video games on Twitch.

Representative social media post: Sure, it’s nice that Hayward’s newborn is “happy and healthy,” but what really matters here is that she has incredible sports baby potential:

Grade: 9/10

Kevin Love

Previous Olympic experience: 2012 (gold)

Why did he withdraw? Love’s still new to this whole postseason thing, and after last season’s championship run, he turned down a Team USA invite to rest, despite initially claiming that he’d play in Rio.

What has he been doing in his free time? He’s been a fixture in trade rumors all year long, but instead of sulking, Love has been living it up, making appearances at the ESPYs, on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and doing some business casual modeling for Banana Republic.

Representative social media post: Ain’t no party like a Players’ Tribune party:

(Love didn’t tweet this, or take the photo, but he did retweet it. For an incompetent social media user like Love, a strong retweet is impressive in and of itself.)

Grade: 10/10. A Larry O’Brien Trophy is worth 10 gold medals.