DeAndre Jordan on Olympic golds: "I think they're above NBA rings"

ByMarc Stein and Mark Schwarz ESPN logo
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Team USA center DeAndre Jordan of the LA Clippers has made the claim that an Olympic gold medal should be viewed by the American basketball community as a more substantive achievement than an NBA championship.

"I think they're above NBA rings," Jordan told ESPN of the gold medal USA Basketball is chasing here in Rio entering Wednesday night's quarterfinal game against Argentina.

"I may get in trouble for saying that, but I believe that. I feel like this is more special. You're not just playing teams in the U.S. You're playing teams from all over the world. And this is even more special because there's an NBA champion crowned every year, but this is every four years.

"You've got to really think about that, man, because it's extremely special."

Jordan, like Anthony, has yet to win a championship in the NBA. In eight seasons, he's yet to advance past the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, but Jordan has spoken often in the past month about how thrilled he was to receive his first berth on the U.S. senior men's national team after earning All-NBA First Team honors last season.

The topic of gold medals and NBA rings has come up with increasingly regularity around Team USA in recent days, with New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony in pursuit of his third gold medal, which would be a first for a U.S. Olympian in men's basketball.

In an interview with ESPN last week, Anthony insisted that he will continue to tune out naysayers who take issue with his NBA resume and said that winning a third gold medal would indeed help lessen the sting of a playoff history back home that has seen him advance past the first round of the playoffs just twice in his career with the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks.

"Most athletes don't have an opportunity to say that they won a gold medal, better yet three gold medals," Anthony said. "I would be very happy walking away from the game knowing that I've given the game everything I have, knowing I played on a high level at every level: high school, college, won [a championship at Syracuse] in college and possibly three gold medals.

"I can look back on it when my career is over -- if I don't have an NBA championship ring -- and say I had a great career."

In an interview with ESPN this week, Jordan supported Anthony's position, saying: "To be the first person to do anything, you're a legend. If he's the first [American basketball player] to play in four Olympics, he's a legend. If he's the first [American] to win three gold medals on the basketball stage, you gotta respect that guy. I will say that he had a great career regardless of what other people say."

In these Rio Games, Anthony has surpassed LeBron James to become the all-time leading scorer in U.S. men's Olympic history. The 13-year NBA veteran, at 32, is trying to add to the gold medals he won in Beijing and London in 2008 and 2012 after the disappointment of a bronze medal at Athens 2004.

"Of course, because we play in the NBA that's always the goal: to win an NBA championship," Anthony said last week. "But every year [there's] a new champion, so you have an opportunity to compete for a championship every year. This is every four years."