Kevin Love made US Olympic team because of 'tokenism,' ESPN's Jalen Rose says

Ex-NBA star said Christian Laettner making the 1992 'Dream Team' was 'favoritism'

The U.S. men’s national basketball team will be looking for its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal when the Kevin Durant-led squad takes the court in Tokyo next month.

Jalen Rose, one of ESPN’s basketball analysts, said Thursday he was upset Kevin Love, who is White, was on the Olympic roster.

"I’m excited about the roster and I assume, and I know, we’re going to win the gold. But I’m disappointed in something. As I do this show every day, I do it in front of a picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fist at the Olympics. I also know the favoritism that Christian Laettner was shown when he got a chance to be put on the Dream Team ahead of Shaq and Alonzo (Mourning). But they made it so a college player could even get on and gave him favoritism," he said on his show "Jalen & Jacoby."

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FILE - In this April 30, 2021, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love (0) dribbles against the Washington Wizards during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Cleveland. The five-time All-Star played in just 25 games due to a severe calf injury. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

FILE - In this April 30, 2021, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love (0) dribbles against the Washington Wizards during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Cleveland. The five-time All-Star played in just 25 games due to a severe calf injury. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

"But this level of, and I got a word for it … Kevin Love is on the team because of tokenism. Don’t be scared to make an all-Black team representing the United States of America. I’m disappointed by that. Anybody that watched the league this year knows Kevin Love did not have a stellar season, was not the best player on his team and did not necessarily deserve to be on this squad. And I’m not going to take him off the squad and not put somebody else on it. I’m going to tell you whose spot that should be. 

"That should be a young man that was born in the Bahamas. That is a McDonald’s All-American, playing high school and college in Phoenix, Arizona. Deandre Ayton should have Kevin Love’s spot. And I’m disappointed in Team USA for not having the courage to send an all-Black team to the Olympics."

Team USA had an all-Black team during the 2016 Olympics at the height of the U.S. presidential elections between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Love was on the 2012 Olympic team. Both teams won gold medals.

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In 1992, Laettner had more momentum to make the "Dream Team" over O’Neal and Mourning, Laettner was the Naismith College Player of the Year and his Duke teams won back-to-back national titles whereas O’Neal’s LSU teams were eliminated in the second round of the 1992 tournament. Mourning’s Georgetown team lost to Florida State in the second round.

Love only appeared in 25 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2020-21 season. He still finished in the top five on the team in scoring with 12.2 points per game and was third in rebounds with 7.4 boards per game. He’s also emerged as a vital mental health advocate for the league.

As far as Ayton goes, he has represented the Bahamas in international competitions. He was on the team during the 2016 Centrobasket tournament. It’s unclear whether he was targeted for Team USA.

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ESPN declined to comment on Rose's remarks on Friday.