Byron Mullens is feeling very Olympic today.
Great Britain’s national basketball team just got a whole lot better, now that the sweet-shooting seven-footer from Canal Winchester, Ohio, has officially agreed to play for them at the London Games.
Wait, who is Byron Mullens?
Up until recently, Mullens was a common punchline relating to debates about the worst rated players on NBA 2K12.
Spending two full seasons picking splinters from your butt at the end of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench will gain you that type of notoriety in the virtual world.
However, in reality Mullens has blossomed into a serviceable player in 2012 with the Charlotte Bobcats in his third NBA season.
After seeing ‘action’ in just 26 games for a total of 39 career points in two seasons with the Thunder, Mullens has been involved in all but one of the Bobcats games to date this season, logging over 500 points and 1000 minutes of court time.
Mullens was born and raised in the United States, but thanks to his Mother he now has a fresh passport from the United Kingdom and is eligible to represent the Union Jack at the Olympics.
He’s started in 16 games this year, including a string of nine games in January and a current run of seven starts since March 31.
His opportunity to play in Charlotte is the byproduct of a desperately thin lineup that’s been continually riddled with injuries throughout this condensed lockout-shortened season.
It’s been a disappointing trudge for the lowly Bobcats, they’re currently on a 13-game slide and have only experienced the taste of victory on seven occasions.
However, the nightly experience of playing against the world’s best basketball talent is making a world difference for the Bobcats’ soon-to-be Olympian and his newly adopted national team.
Mullens posted back-to-back 20-point outings in the first two games of his recent stint as a starter, two games later he racked up a career-high 31 points and equal career-best 14 rebounds against the Milwaukee Bucks.
It’s been widely known that NBA stars Luol Deng and Ben Gordon were fortuitously eligible to represent Great Britain, but the national team never had the opportunity to actually materialize in any meaningful capacity until the upcoming Olympics.
As the host nation, Great Britain’s basketball team automatically qualifies for the 12-team tournament, a competition which has become hotly contested by countries that can get their NBA talent to quickly gel and adapt to the international style of hoops.
With the inclusion of Kelenna Azubuike and Pops Mensah Bonsu, Great Britain can potentially field five players with NBA experience at the Olympics.
Depending on how this experimental collection of ‘British’ ballers performs, this team could provide a springboard for British basketball to remain on the world stage for years to come.
Dreams of Olympic bronze rest on the shoulders of Mullens and company, but it will come down to how ‘Olympic’ these ‘Brits’ feel once they return ‘home’.
12 Abril 2012