LAS VEGAS (AP) — Bam Adebayo has two primary goals to accomplish at the Paris Olympics. The first one is obvious: a gold medal.

The second one: getting a picture with Simone Biles.

Among Biles’ biggest fans — literally — going into the Paris Games is a group of fellow Olympians, some of them more than 2 feet taller than she is, most of whom have never been to any sort of gymnastics meet in their lives. But make no mistake: The U.S. men’s basketball team loves her.

“She’s the best,” three-time Olympic medalist LeBron James said. “It’s that simple. She’s the best.”

It speaks to the power of Biles that, on an American roster with James and Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry and countless other greats from all sides of the sporting world, she’s not only the face of the U.S. Olympic Team — but it could be argued that she’s the face of the Paris Gmes, the most dominant and most captivating athlete in the world right now. Biles is the most decorated gymnast ever, with 37 medals from Olympic and world championship competitions.

And when the U.S. basketball players can be there to watch her in Paris, they will be. If the schedules align on the basketball off days — and there are opportunities, such as the Aug. 1 women’s all-around final — they’ll be figuring out ways to get tickets.

“I heard it’s really expensive to get in,” said U.S. guard Tyrese Haliburton, whose five-year, $245 million contract with the Indiana Pacers begins at the start of the next NBA season. “But I think I can make that work.”

They feel Biles is worth it.

At 4-foot-8, she could probably dunk a basketball if she thought about it and came up with some super-creative way to make it happen. At last month’s U.S. Olympic trials in Minneapolis, Biles reached a height of 12 feet – according to NBC – during the first tumbling pass of her floor routine. A basketball rim is 10 feet off the ground.

“To be that good — well, excuse me, to be that great — and she still keeps breaking barriers,” Adebayo said. “To be able to see that just one time and hopefully get a picture with her, it’d mean a lot because she’s done a lot for not only the faces of us but for her sport as a whole.”

U.S. guard Devin Booker will never have the most gold medals on his block; one of his neighbors in Phoenix just happens to be 23-time Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps. That’s the most golds in Olympic history.

Biles has seven Olympic medals, tying the most by any U.S. gymnast. And if Booker can be there to see her break that record, count him in.

“It’s really inspiring,” said Booker, who was part of the team at the Tokyo Olympics when the rules of the pandemic made it extremely difficult for athletes to attend other competitions. “That’s another thing I missed last go-round. I wasn’t able to watch any other events or see any other countries or anything. I’ll be there in full support if I have the time and the schedule matches up.”

Another thing that makes the basketball team marvel at Biles is her longevity.

The last 12 Olympic all-around competitions in women’s gymnastics have been won by teenagers; Biles was 19 when she won gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. She’s 27 now. She’d be the second-oldest Olympic women’s all-around champion ever if she wins in Paris.

With the expectation that this will be her last games, Durant is clear: “I’ve got to go see that,” he said.

“I was talking to a gymnast the other day and I didn’t know their peak is from like 15 to like 18 or 19 or something like that,” Durant said. “So, for her to be at that age and still elite, of course, yeah, I want to go check her out. I’ve always been a fan of what she was doing. Introduced me to that sport, really. I wasn’t really paying attention much until she started doing her thing. … Simone is somebody who set the tone for what a champion, an Olympian, a winner in life should be.”

Biles still being the world’s best at 27, in her sport, makes about as much sense as a 39-year-old entering his 22nd NBA season and signing $100 million contracts to keep going and still playing at an extremely high level.

James sees the parallel between their career paths.

“Simone is super dope,” James said. “And she’s an inspiration to my daughter and to all, not only Black girls in the world, but also, kids, anyone, not only just in gymnastics, but any field. If you love greatness — which is another story about the people that don’t love greatness or act like they don’t, but they just have to be in the hate pool because that’s what society is today. But Simone is amazing and she’s everything.”


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