Olympians Battle for NBA, NHL Supremacy

(ATR) Olympic teammates now find themselves on opposing sides of the NBA Finals and NHL Stanley Cup.

US forward LeBron James scores during the London 2012 Olympic Games men's gold medal basketball game between USA and Spain at the North Greenwich Arena in London on August 12, 2012.           AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU        (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/GettyImages)
US forward LeBron James scores during the London 2012 Olympic Games men's gold medal basketball game between USA and Spain at the North Greenwich Arena in London on August 12, 2012. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/GettyImages)

(ATR) Olympic teammates and rivals reunite on the court and on the ice this week as basketball and hockey stars compete for top domestic championships.

The National Basketball Association Finals matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors features a bevy of basketball stars seen at the Rio 2016, London 2012, Beijing 2008 and Athens 2004 Games.

Nine players from the teams have competed in the Olympics, with the Cavaliers edging the Warriors' Olympic talent on the roster with five medalists opposed to four.

For Cleveland, two-time Olympic champion LeBron James leads its roster of Olympians. He is joined by fellow starters Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love who each have one gold medal. Veterans Richard Jefferson and Deron Williams received bronze in ’04 and golds in ’08 and ’12, respectively.

James and Jefferson were teammates on the Athens 2004 team that finished with a bronze after an upset by Argentina, bringing the Cavaliers' Olympic medal total to eight.

Golden State’s talented lineup is also led by a two-time Olympic gold medalist in Kevin Durant. Durant was instrumental in leading the Rio 2016 USA Basketball team to a gold medal after a number of usual stars such as LeBron James declined to participate in Brazil.

Durant is joined by Klay Thompson and Draymond Green who each earned their first medal with Durant at Rio 2016. Andre Iguodala won his Olympic gold medal at London 2012, bringing the Warriors total to five gold medals.

The Warriors currently lead the series 2-0 after two convincing victories at home. The best of seven series now shifts to Cleveland, Ohio for the next two games. If the Warriors can win the next two games on the road they will complete the first undefeated postseason in NBA history, sweeping all of its opponents in route to a 16-0 record.

Six Countries Represented by Olympians in Stanley Cup Final

There are 11 Olympians from six countries currently playing in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Final.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, have eight of them led by Canadian Sidney Crosby. The upstart Nashville Predators, playing in their first Final, have two Swiss players among their trio of Olympians.

Crosby scored the overtime goal to give Canada the gold medal in Vancouver in 2010 and captained his country to another gold medal in Sochi in 2014.

Evgeni Malkin has played in three Olympics for Russia but has never won a medal. The other six Penguins with Olympic experience are the USA’s Phil Kessel, Olli Maatta of Finland, Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Kunitz of Canada, Carl Hagelin of Sweden and Mark Streit of Switzerland.

Like Streit, Nashville’s Roman Josi and Yannick Weber have represented Switzerland while P.K. Subban won a gold medal in 2014 with Canada.

Whether any of these players will get a chance to play in PyeongChang is very much in doubt after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league would not shut down its season and won’t release its players for next February’s Olympic tournament.

Written by Kevin Nutley and Gerard Farek.

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