Becoming an NBA All-Star starter for the second straight year, then being in the house watching Villanova, where he played for Jay Wright & Co. more than a decade ago, win the National Championship? Those are things Kyle Lowry says don’t really surprise him.
But being an Olympian? You’ve got to be kidding!
Except the joke’s on all of us. Later this week, Philadelphia’s native Lowry will join Saint Joseph’s Mike Bantom from the celebrated 1972 team that lost that disputed gold medal game to Russia as the only players with a Big Five lineage to play for Team USA in the Olympics. The other one, LaSalle’s Michael Brooks, was selected but never got to compete in Moscow due to the American’s boycott of the 1980 Olympics.
“It’s amazing being an Olympian,” said the 30-year-old Lowry, who’ll be coming off the bench at point guard for Mike Krzyzewski’s team in Rio. “I dreamed about it as kid, but never would’ve imagined it.
“Me being an Olympian is the most surprising thing about this year. Being an All-Star comes from lot of hard work I put in. With Villanova I know how much they worked at it and I know those guys. I was at the game and it was unbelievable.
“And it’s really neat being only the second one from Philly. It means a lot.”
When premier point guards Steph Curry, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook opted out of going to Rio, it opened up a spot for Lowry, who didn’t hesitate in taking it. While he and his family made the painful decision for them to stay home for safety and health reasons, he’s anxious to finally get there. And eager to participate in all aspects of the Games.
“The fact we’re getting really close it’s hitting us that things are starting to be real,” said Lowry. “I’ve been watching the Olympics going back to 1992.
“We’re gonna do everything there. We’re no different from everyone else. We’ll go to the Opening Ceremonies and I’ll try to support others from the U.S. and go to events.
“But it’s my first Olympics, so I don’t know what to expect.”
As for what to expect when play gets underway, Lowry says Team USA is coming along just fine. Forget the fact Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and the rest have destroyed all competition during the warm-up phase. They know it might not be quite so easy when facing quality opposition like Argentina, Spain, Croatia (featuring soon-to-be-Sixer Dario Saric) and France.
“We’re just trying to get more focused,” said Lowry, who averaged a career high 21.2 points and 6.4 assists this past season for the Toronto Raptors, where he’s found an NBA home since 2012 after stops in Memphis and Houston. “Every game we try to continue to work on things. The International game is a bit different, but it’s still basketball. Right now we’re all just working hard together trying to get better to win the gold.”
While that moment is still a few weeks away, the former Cardinal Dougherty standout, who played just two years for Wright and ‘Nova before turning pro in 2006, admits it’s crossed his mind.
“I can’t say I haven’t thought about it,” said Lowry, the No. 24 pick in the 2006 Draft, who’s averaged 13.5 and 5.7 assists over his 10-year career. “But I don’t want to think that far ahead.”
Nor does he even want to contemplate the idea of one day playing in his hometown for a young Sixers team desperately in need of someone who knows how to run an offense and get the ball to the open man.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” he insisted, after guiding the Raptors to 56 wins and an Atlantic Division title, followed by their first ever trip to the Conference Finals, before losing to LeBron James and the eventual champion Cavs in six. “But right now my focus is on winning a gold medal.”
That, along with Kyle Lowry still getting over the shock he’ll be wearing the red, white and blue in Rio.