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If LeBron or Kobe gets $40 million, will they finish the Games?

August 8, 2008 |  6:35 am

LeBron James adjusts the tie of Olympic teammate Kobe Bryant during a visit by President Bush on the opening day of the Beijing Games.

BEIJING — Looks as if we have a new mantra on the U.S. men’s basketball team.

The old one was:

Winning a gold medal would be bigger than winning a title in the NBA.

The new one is:

If anyone in Europe offers me $40 million a year, I’m there.

To this point, no one has actually offered anyone $40 million, the figure having come from a joke Kobe Bryant made at a post-game press conference in Shanghai.

However, you can't stop the players from dreaming or the press from doing what it does, which is follow each other into the sea like lemmings.

There have been actual "reports" that some European team may offer LeBron James $50 million and that  he would strongly consider it.

Not that this begins to corroborate the reports in the absence of an actual offer, but James said Friday that if someone offered it, he would definitely consider it.

Doing his standard non-denial denial, James said he's not thinking about it but was willing to discuss the general notion of playing in Europe.

"Growing up, you never think of playing in any other league than the NBA," James said. "But you never know. One thing I never do is put all my eggs in one basket. It's a lot of opportunities. There"ll be a lot of opportunities for me in 2010 [when his contract is up], if I want to stay with Cleveland, if I want to go elsewhere.

"Could I ever imagine it? No.

"Is it a possibility? Yes."

The scary thing is that there is some billionaire madman out there who won't mind peeling off 50 mil and offering it to James. All we have to do is wait until 2010 to find out (or next summer for Kobe).

Of course, the really scary thing is that this story will continue on a daily basis until then.

All over the interview room in the Main Press Center Friday, U.S. players were announcing that if they were offered $50 million or even $40 million a year, they were gone, too.

As far as I can tell, everyone playing in, connected with or covering the NBA has now announced he would take $40 million to $50 million a year, too.

Trying to stay ahead of the curve, I told one of my colleagues that if an angel came down from heaven, flew in the window and asked me if I wanted to go, I was there.

"The way this day is going," replied my colleague, "I am, too."

Hopefully, any U.S. players who actually do get one of those $40-million- to $50-million-offers will at least stay here to finish out the competition.

Also, it would be great for this country they’re so thrilled to represent if they could retain their citizenship so they can still play for the U.S. in future Olympics.

Then their new mantra will be:

A gold medal is more important to me than an NBA title OR a Eurobasket championship.

-- Mark Heisler

Photo: LeBron James adjusts the tie of Olympic teammate Kobe Bryant during a visit by President Bush on the opening day of the Beijing Games. Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Images