Looney Tunes ahead of Team USA? LeBron says he’s focusing on new ‘Space Jam’ movie instead of Olympics this summer
LeBron James used the pain of the LA Lakers’ first-round playoff exit to plug his new movie ‘Space Jam 2’, suggesting that playing for the ‘Tune Squad’ would take priority over appearing for his country at the Olympics.
James fell to a first-round exit in the playoffs for the first time in his career as defending champions the Lakers went down 113-100 to the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 at the Staples Center on Thursday night, sealing a 4-2 series win for the Suns.
James managed 29 points for the Lakers, who lost key man Anthony Davis after less than six minutes of the game when he limped off with a groin injury having only just returned to the starting lineup.
Suns sensation Devin Booker scored 47 points for his team, as the Lakers became the first defending champions to suffer a first-round playoff exit since the San Antonio Spurs in 2015.
The Suns will now meet the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals, after the latter sealed a 4-2 series win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Frustrated four-time NBA champion James pointed to his personal injury struggles during the ill-fated Lakers' campaign, after being sidelined for a lengthy period with an ankle injury earlier in the season.
With the Lakers’ fate sealed, the 36-year-old said a full offseason would “work wonders for him.”
“Obviously during the season I don’t talk about rest, I don’t even like to put my mind in that frame, it makes me weak,” said the Lakers star.
“But in the off-season I’ve got an opportunity to rest. I’ve got like three months to recalibrate, get my ankle back to 100%.”
That meant attention turned to whether James was ruling himself out of appearing at the Tokyo Olympics for the US ‘Dream Team’ this summer – with his response hardly filling fans with enthusiasm.
“Nah, I think I’m gonna play for the Tune Squad this summer instead of the Olympics,” said James when asked about Tokyo, plugging his upcoming movie ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’, set for release in July and a follow-up to the 1996 original featuring NBA icon Michael Jordan.
Wow. Lebron picks the Tune Squad over his country. smh pic.twitter.com/aoWfnoDKA9— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) June 4, 2021
“I think that’s what my focus is on, on trying to beat the Monstars – or the Goon Squad we call them now.
“So didn’t have much success versus the Suns, so now I am gearing my attention to the Goon Squad here in July, in mid-July.
“So I’m gonna let the ankle rest for about a month and then I’m going to gear up with Lola, Taz, Granny, Bugs and the rest of the crew. So hopefully I’ll see y’all at the match.”
"I think I'm going to play for the Toon Squad this summer instead of the Olympics." -- LeBron James taking himself out of consideration for the Olympics, while plugging Space Jam 2. #LakeShow— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) June 4, 2021
And that's that: LeBron James just said he is not going to play in the Tokyo Olympics.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) June 4, 2021
Asked about the Olympics, LeBron said he'll be playing for the Toon Squad this summer, rather than Team USA. He also dropped about 20 seconds worth of Space Jam references and characters into his response. To paraphrase Glengarry Glen Ross, "A.B.P. Always. Be. Promoting."AK— Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) June 4, 2021
Plenty of people took the statement at face value, meaning James would not be gracing the Covid-hit sporting showpiece in Japan this summer.
James did not feature in Rio de Janeiro last time round after declining an invitation to play, citing the need for rest, but did pick up gold medals with the US in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
Others thought James was joking and could perhaps still feature in Japan, although many said rest and recuperation would be the best thing for him.
LeBron James said in his post-game media address that his off-season priority is Space Jam 2 "instead of the Olympics." Time away from the game naturally makes the most sense for James, 36, after the Lakers' faced the shortest offseason in league history.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 4, 2021
LeBron James joked, "I think I'm going to play for the Toon Squad instead of the Olympics."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) June 4, 2021
LeComedian— LAKESHOW 2022 NBA CHAMPS (@YMG_Lakers) June 4, 2021
Traveling to Japan at the end of a grueling season is perhaps made less attractive by the notion that fan attendance is still up in the air at the Games.
Hosts Japan continue to battle public discontent at the event going ahead as Tokyo remains in a state of emergency due to Covid-19.
In terms of James' own Olympic career, it could be a case of 'That's all, folks.'