EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Anthony Edwards has ‘butterflies’ to be Kevin Durant’s Olympic teammate

Jul 9, 2024, 4:50 PM | Updated: 5:35 pm

Kevin Durant and Anthony Edwards...

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — Anthony Edwards hasn’t had much of a break from basketball in the last two years.

He’s cool with it. He loves it. But with that in mind coming into this summer, some lengthy time off was deserved.

But anything from the tiniest fractures of a thought in his head to legitimate consideration of not going to the Olympics in Paris was out the window once he heard Kevin Durant was in.

“When I see he committed I didn’t have a choice but to commit,” Edwards said.

The 22-year-old shooting guard is what the NBA has been hoping would fall into its lap with a generation led by LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Durant reaching the end of their careers. Edwards is a vibrant personality who is unabashedly himself. Everyone is hoping more time in this role of a professional does not have that wear off.

He began his press conference in a more formal setting on Sunday, the ballroom of the Bellagio. Edwards was asked about how he referenced earlier in the day that Team USA had mentioned to the players that some guys might not play and might not get lots of minutes. Clarification was sought on if this was said directly to him.

“Nah, hell nah! I meant, no,” Edwards reflexively said to laughs as he tried to lessen the tone, noting this was a message to the whole team.

He is also one hell — it’s OK to say, Ant! — of a basketball player. Edwards made Second Team All-NBA last year and his incredible scoring flurries and posterizing dunks go more viral than his comments, which is a compliment to the highlight-reel worthy elements of his game.

Edwards is definitively in the “next face of the league” conversation everyone is seemingly obsessed with having. That is not why we are here today, though it does emphasize that why.

Durant is Edwards’ favorite player of all time. Edwards has not been shy about it over the years.

“That’s who I watched growing up,” Edwards said. “My first NBA game I went to in Atlanta was Atlanta versus Oklahoma City. … That was the first player I liked on the court and after that I watched all his games. When I was little, I wore No. 35 in basketball. My feet was big, I always bought KD’s to play in.

“And he’s good.”

Yes he is!

I’m sure Edwards is actually more frustrated than Durant himself about the calf soreness keeping Durant out of practice, a.k.a. delaying Edwards’ first time sharing the floor with Durant as a teammate.

“Still got butterflies there waiting for that to happen,” Edwards said. “Because I’m ready to see the Olympics KD.”

To go back to narratives you’ve seen as lower-thirds on your television screen, this Olympics can be viewed as a “passing of the torch” of sorts. Some thought that’s what we saw this past postseason.

To be fair, everyone who loves basketball loved seeing Edwards jaw at Durant during the playoffs. Edwards said afterward it was one of the best feelings of his life. The symbolism was hard to ignore.

When you think about it, it makes sense that this goes both ways. Durant’s favorite player to watch is Edwards. There are similarities within how they approach the game that can’t help but be appreciated the most by those who share the mindset.

Durant has long understood the weight of the responsibility he has held to the game of basketball as a role model for aspiring youngsters like Edwards.

“It’s still crazy when you hear stuff like that,” he told Arizona Sports on Tuesday. “Because I still feel like I got that kid-like energy in me to go play the game. I’m still learning to try to emulate other players, too, so when you get players who look up to you or looked at you, it’s pretty cool. Tells me I’m doing something right.”

When little Ant goes to that game in Atlanta, does he have the same relationship with basketball that he does now if Durant wasn’t out there? Does Edwards become the level of player he is now?

It’s easy to say, yes, of course he would have. Edwards probably gravitates toward Russell Westbrook that night or someone else another night. But the undeniable fact here is that Durant inspired a kid from Atlanta to chase a basketball dream that has now become a reality.

And guess what. Kids going to see Edwards right now are having him become their version of what KD is to Ant. That cycle will continue and is part of what makes the spotlight a player of Durant’s caliber has over the years so special.

One request before we go. When it’s the fourth quarter in Paris and Team USA hasn’t yet put its opponent away, realize in the moment what one guy in the arena wants to see more than anything.

On the most stacked basketball roster since the Dream Team, the question was asked who rises up as the alpha of all alphas. If you’ve been paying attention, you know Edwards’ answer. Even if he’s on the court in that moment, part of him is going to be that little kid in Atlanta again.

“When the game is on the line, who’s the alpha?” Edwards said. “I think Kevin Durant. It better be.

“That’s who I came to see.”

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Anthony Edwards has ‘butterflies’ to be Kevin Durant’s Olympic teammate