Basketball Stars to Watch in Beijing
Manu Gin&#243;bili | Argentina
San Antonio's rough-and-tumble shooting guard is the only player to win a Euroleague title, an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal. The southpaw from Bahía Blanca hopes to lead his country to a second consecutive gold medal, four years after his MVP performance in Athens.
Andrew Bogut | Australia
The former No. 1 draft pick was a starter for the national team at the 2004 Summer Olympics and paced the Boomers in scoring and rebounding at the '06 FIBA World Championship. This past season, Bogut averaged career highs for the Bucks with 14.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks -- and inked a multi-year extension in July.
Roko Uki&#263; | Croatia
Toronto drafted the Croatian point guard with the No. 41 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. He's since played professionally in Spain and Italy -- helming FC Barcelona to the Spanish league title in '06-07 -- but finalized a three-year pact with the Raptors last month.
Hamed Ehadadi | Iran
The 7-foot-2, 254-pound center poured in 31 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Lebanon for the FIBA Asian Championship last year, helping Iran clinch its first Olympic basketball berth since 1948. He's expected to explore a move to the NBA following the Beijing Games.
Linas Kleiza | Lithuania
In his third NBA season as a combo forward with the Nuggets, Kleiza logged career-high averages in points (11.1), rebounds (4.2), assists (1.2) and minutes (23.9). Should Lithuania advance past the group stage, Kleiza could meet his Denver teammate Carmelo Anthony in an elimination game.
J.R. Holden | Russia
Following a decorated collegiate career at Bucknell, Holden emerged as one of Europe's best point guards during six seasons with CSKA Moscow. Naturalized in 2003, Holden became a national hero after his 17-foot jumper with 2.1 seconds left gave Russia a stunning 60-59 victory over Spain in last September's European championships.
Joaquim Gomes | Angola
Mid-major junkies might remember Gomes from his four-year stint with Valparaiso University during the early 2000s, where the post man helped the Crusaders to a pair of NCAA tournament appearances. He helped Angola clinch a berth in the Olympic tournament with a victory in last year's FIBA Africa Championship.
Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian | China
China's twin towers have cut their teeth on NBA competition and hope to lead their country to its first Olympic medal in basketball since the event's 1936 debut.
Dirk Nowitzki | Germany
In this month's FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Nowitzki poured in a game-high 32 points against Puerto Rico to send Germany to its first Olympics since 1992.
Theodoros Papaloukas | Greece
Papaloukas is best known among American hoops fans for his standout performance in Greece's upset of the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2006 FIBA World Championships. The versatile "point forward" carved up the American defense with a game-high 12 assists, chipping in eight points in a 101-95 stunner.
Ricky Rubio | Spain
Considered by many the best European guard prospect since Drazen Petrovic, the 17-year-old floor general remains the youngest player to appear in a Spanish ACB League game. He'll join a loaded Spanish team featuring Pau and Marc Gasol, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Jorge Garbajosa, Raúl López and Juan Carlos Navarro.
LeBron James | United States
King James provided ample bulletin board material for the competition in Beijing, issuing a guarantee the United States will bring home the gold medal for the first time since 2000. Can the reigning NBA scoring champion deliver on his promise and lead the "Redeem Team" to victory?