June 23, 2008 / 3:25 PM / 10 years ago

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James head Olympic basketball team

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player and its leading scorer, headed the 12-man U.S. Olympic basketball team named on Monday for the Beijing Olympics.

File photo shows Cleveland Cavaliers' Lebron James during the first half of Game 6 of their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final playoff series against the Boston Celtics in Cleveland, Ohio May 16, 2008. James and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant headed the 12-man U.S. Olympic basketball team named on Monday for the Beijing Olympics. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes

Premier point guard Chris Paul was also included in the squad, which the U.S. Olympic Committee hopes will reverse a trend of disappointing results for American teams in recent international competitions.

Jerry Colangelo, managing director of USA Basketball and chairman of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, said the emphasis was on building a team that would play well together, rather than collecting NBA all-stars.

“It’s already been proven that a group of all-stars does not necessarily ensure that you’re going to win,” he said at a press conference.

“You need scorers, you need size, you need distributors, you need role players and we’ve stayed true to that.”

The team features six guards and five forwards with Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic the only regular center named in the team.

The U.S. team’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski said the emphasis was on speed and versatility.

File photo shows Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant during Game 5 of the NBA Finals basketball championship against the Boston Celtics in Los Angeles, June 15, 2008. Bryant and the Cavaliers' LeBron James headed the 12-man U.S. Olympic basketball team named on Monday for the Beijing Olympics. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

He added that team defense will decide whether the U.S. team can win the gold medal, and said three point guards were selected so the U.S. team could win that critical match-up every game.

Besides Bryant and Paul, the other guards are Jason Kidd (Dallas), Michael Redd (Milwaukee), Dwyane Wade (Miami) and Deron Williams (Utah).

Carmelo Anthony (Denver), Carlos Boozer (Utah), Chris Bosh (Toronto) and Tayshaun Prince (Detroit) join James in the forwards.

U.S. teams have struggled overseas in recent years after decades of international dominance as the growth of the game overseas has led to vast improvement by other countries’ teams.

“The key word for us throughout this whole process has been respect,” said Krzyzewski, who also coaches at college power Duke University. “We respect the international game. For too long, we’ve been saying it’s just our game. It’s really the world’s game.

“You can’t be arrogant and win,” he added later.

The United States finished with a disappointing bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens behind gold-medal winning Argentina, and also finished third at the world championship in Japan in 2006.

The U.S. team will begin training in Las Vegas on Friday and play a series of exhibition games against other NBA players, as well as other countries’ teams in July and August. It opens the Olympics in Beijing against the host Chinese team on August 10.

U.S. team - Carmelo Anthony, forward, Denver Nuggets; Carlos Boozer, forward, Utah Jazz; Chris Bosh, forward, Toronto Raptors; Kobe Bryant, guard, Los Angeles Lakers; Dwight Howard, forward/center, Orlando Magic; LeBron James, forward, Cleveland Cavaliers; Jason Kidd, guard, Dallas Mavericks; Chris Paul, guard, New Orleans Hornets; Tayshaun Prince, forward, Detroit Pistons; Michael Redd, guard, Milwaukee Bucks; Dwyane Wade, guard, Miami Heat; Deron Williams, guard, Utah Jazz.

Editing by Miles Evans

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