Last two ROYs among latest additions to team

Updated: May 14, 2004, 5:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- A dozen years after shunning college players, the U.S. Olympic basketball team turned Friday to a pair of players who jumped to the NBA right out of high school: LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire.

The NBA's last two rookies of the year were among five players added to this year's Olympic Dream Team, along with New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury, New Jersey Nets forward Richard Jefferson, and Phoenix Suns forward Shawn Marion.

"It's a dream come true for me to represent my country," said the 19-year-old James, who will become the youngest U.S. Olympic men's basketball player since Spencer Haywood in 1968.

Withdrawing from the team were guards Ray Allen of the Seattle Supersonics and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Allen cited a personal family matter; Bryant still faces trial on a sexual assault charge in Colorado.

James, who was 7 when the "Dream Team" debuted, won the rookie of the year award after joining the Cleveland Cavaliers straight from high school -- a feat accomplished for the first time just a season earlier by Phoenix's Stoudemire.

The squad is guard-heavy, meaning James could see extended time at small forward as well as in the backcourt. Anywhere he plays, the rookie sensation is sure to contribute to the American team, which has won each of the last three Olympic gold medals.

"The way I look at it, this is an opportunity for Stephon, LeBron and Richard," Olympic coach Larry Brown said in a teleconference. "I'm going to coach the guys who come."

Marbury, at a Manhattan news conference arranged by the United States Olympic Committee, said he was proud of his selection.

"This is a high honor for myself," Marbury said. "Playing in the Olympics is a heartfelt thing. I'm just happy they chose me."

Marbury, who said his childhood Olympic memories were more about track and field than basketball, said he was looking forward to competing against the best players in the world -- even though many of them already play in the NBA.

The announcement also reunited Marbury, albeit temporarily, with former Suns teammates Stoudemire and Marion.

"This is not even about us," Marbury said. "It's about our country, and showing we're the best at what we do."

Already on the Olympic rosters were two-time gold medalist Karl Malone, 2000 gold medalist Jason Kidd, two-time NBA MVP Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Jermaine O'Neal, Tracy McGrady and Mike Bibby.

Kidd, Malone, McGrady and Bibby are all reconsidering their decision to play in Athens.

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, who helped James form the best 1-2 rookie punch since Larry Bird and Magic Johnson joined the league, was not picked for the Olympic team.

Anthony is among several possible replacements, including Sam Cassell, Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom.

The ever-evolving and increasingly younger roster could cause problems for the Americans once they get to Greece, said Stu Jackson, chairman of the USA Basketball selection committee.

"It doesn't hurt us from the talent standpoint, but from the continuity standpoint," he said.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.

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