The U.S. men's basketball team is eager to see Simone Biles compete

LAS VEGAS — Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo has two main goals to accomplish at the Paris Olympics. The first is obvious: win a gold medal.

The second: take a photo with Simone Biles.

Among Biles' biggest fans — literally — heading into the Paris Games are a group of fellow Olympians, some of them more than two feet taller than she is, most of whom have never attended any kind of gymnastics competition in their lives.

But make no mistake, the U.S. men's basketball team loves her.

“She's the best,” three-time Olympic gold medalist LeBron James said. “It's that simple. She's the best.”

It speaks to Biles' power: On an American roster featuring James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and countless other greats, she is not only the face of the U.S. Olympic team, but arguably the face of the Paris Games and the most dominant and captivating athlete in the world right now.

Biles is the most decorated gymnast in history, with 37 medals from Olympic competitions and world championships.

And when American basketball players can be there to see it in Paris, they will be. If schedules coincide with basketball's off days (and there are opportunities, such as the women's all-around final on Aug. 1), they will look for ways to get tickets.

“I've heard it's very expensive to get in,” said American guard Tyrese Haliburton, whose five-year, $245 million contract with the Indiana Pacers begins at the start of the next NBA season. “But I think I can make it work.”

They think Biles is worth it.

At 4-foot-13, she could probably dunk a basketball if she thought about it and came up with a super creative way to do it. At last month's U.S. Olympic trials in Minneapolis, Biles reached a height of 12-feet, 12-inches, according to NBC, during the first tumbling pass of her floor routine.

A basketball hoop is 10 feet above the ground.

“She's so good… well, sorry, she's so great… and she keeps breaking barriers,” Adebayo said. “To be able to see that just once and hopefully get a picture with her would mean a lot because she's done so much not just for us, but for the sport as a whole.”

American guard Devin Booker will never have the most gold medals on his block. One of his neighbors in Phoenix is ​​23-time Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps, the most gold medal winner in Olympic history.

Biles has seven Olympic medals, tying the most of any American gymnast. And if Booker can be there to see her break that record, count on him.

“It's really inspiring,” said Booker, who was part of the team at the Tokyo Olympics when pandemic rules made it extremely difficult for athletes to attend other competitions. “That's another thing I missed last time. I didn't get to see any other events or other countries or anything. I'll be there to give my full support if I have time and the schedule works out.”

Another thing that makes the basketball team marvel about Biles is her longevity.

The last 12 Olympic women's all-around gymnastics competitions have been won by teenagers. Biles was 19 when she won gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. She is now 27 and would be the second-oldest Olympic women's all-around gymnastics champion if she wins in Paris.

With this game expected to be his last, Durant is clear: “I have to go see him,” he said.

“I was talking to a gymnast the other day and I didn't know that her peak is between 15 and 18 or 19 or something like that,” Durant said. “So for her to be at that age and still be elite, of course, yeah, I want to go see her. I've always been a fan of what she did. She introduced me to the sport, honestly. I didn't pay much attention to her until she started doing her thing. … Simone is someone who set the standard for what a champion should be, an Olympian, a winner in life.”

Biles still being the best in the world at age 27 in her sport makes about as much sense as a 39-year-old entering his 22nd NBA season, signing $100 million contracts moving forward and still playing at an extremely high level.

James sees parallels between their career paths.

“Simone is amazing,” James said. “And she's an inspiration to my daughter and to everyone, not just little black girls in the world, but boys, to anyone, not just in gymnastics, but in any field. If you love greatness, which is a whole other story about people who don't love greatness or act like they don't love it, but they just have to be in the group of people who hate it because that's just how society is today. But Simone is amazing and she's everything.”

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