From the NBA to the beach: Chase Budinger aims to reach Olympics in new sport

NBA players winning Olympic gold medals are a common sight. Chase Budinger wants to join that list – but his route there will be different.

The 30-year-old hasn't played in the top North American league since 2016. And he currently doesn't have a team.

So how is he going to make his Olympic dream come true?

How about in a different sport?

Volleyball pedigree

Budinger is now a beach volleyball player.

And, it turns out, he's got history with the sport.

He played its indoor cousin in high school before choosing to focus solely on basketball at the University of Arizona.

In fact, in 2006, he was named National Player of the Year by a volleyball publication.

That same year, he was named joint-MVP of the high school all-American basketball game, alongside Kevin Durant.

Two of Budinger's siblings also played indoor volleyball, and during the 2011 NBA lockout, he took part in a few beach tournaments.

"In the back of my mind, I knew could always go back to volleyball after I was done with basketball," he told NBC Sports.

Basketball career

Budinger played seven seasons in the NBA, and took part in the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest during its all-star weekend in 2012, finishing second.

His career took him from the Houston Rockets to the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Indiana Pacers, before a short spell with the Phoenix Suns.

Chase Budinger
Chase BudingerChase Budinger

But he failed to find a team for the 2016–17 season, and ended up in Europe, playing for Baskonia in the Spanish league and EuroLeague.

Budinger played 49 games for the team, averaging 7.1 points in 19.1 minutes per game.

When his contract ran out and while his agent looked for a new team, Budinger went back to volleyball, training with two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal.

The pair then made it official, teaming up for the domestic Association of Volleyball Professionals tour.

Olympic dreams

The duo made their FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour debut as a team in the four-star Huntington Beach Open, where they finished joint-33rd.

Rosenthal is now 37, but Budinger still holds out hope that they'll make the cut for Tokyo 2020 – albeit recognising it's "a long shot", according to NBC Sports.

Paris 2024 may be another option, although Budinger will be 36 by then.

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