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How did Chase Budinger go from the NBA to qualifying for beach volleyball at the 2024 Olympics in Paris?

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Though it’s hard to believe, a little less than 20 years ago, Chase Bundiger was the joint MVP of the boys McDonald’s All-American game in 2006. The other player who clinched the award that day was none other than Phoenix Suns star and two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant, which is to say a lot has changed in two decades.

Chase Bundinger chose basketball over volleyball

When the Olympic Games open in Paris next month the U.S. Olympic team will include a rather unique athlete by the name of Chase Bundinger. A former NBA player, Bundinger will not be representing his country in basketball but rather beach volleyball the sport to which he has dedicated himself since retiring from the league. Yet, before we can understand how that happened, we need to go back to the beginning of his story. As you can probably guess Bundinger was a two-sport star at La Costa Canyon High, the high school he attended in San Diego County.

Establishing himself as a five-star small forward in basketball and one of the country’s best outside hitters in volleyball, it wasn’t long before he started to turn heads. Indeed, he was part of the team that saw La Costa Canyon win three consecutive San Diego Section Division I championships in boy’s volleyball, leading to a plethora of options when it came to college. Instead, Bundinger chose to focus on basketball at that point, eventually committing to Arizona which to be clear, doesn’t feature a men’s volleyball program. What came next was a Pac-10 nod as freshman of the year in 2007 and first-team all-conference honors as a junior just two years later.

OK, but how did Chase Bundinger go from the NBA to Olympic beach volleyball?

Following his impressive contribution on the court in college, it was time for the next level, and in 2009 the former Mr. California Basketball was selected 44th overall by the Houston Rockets. From there, he would go on to play seven seasons in the NBA before the Nets waived him during 2016′s preseason, which in turn led to him playing his final professional season in Spain. It was at that point, with no apparent interest from NBA teams nor those in Europe, that he decided to return to his first love at the age of 30, volleyball.

This brings us back to the present which is the product of six years worth of training and hard work. Though it must be said, Bundinger did not do it on his own. Indeed, alongside partner Miles Evans, the pair secured the second and final U.S. men’s beach volleyball spot in Paris after posting seven top-five finishes in nine qualifying events this year. With that, Bundinger who is now 36 years old and Evans who is 34 will be in Paris this summer, after overtaking fellow Americans Theo Brunner and Trevor Crabb in the international rankings last month.

Regarding the details of how that happened, it was in the second-to-last event in the Olympic qualifying season in Poland last week. There Budinger and Evans finished fifth, while Brunner and Crabb failed to make it out of pool play, something that essentially sealed their fate. Ultimately, it would be fair to say that when he chose to retire from basketball in 2018 and focus solely on beach volleyball, Bundinger made the right choice. Now, he will make his Olympic debut, something we imagine he couldn’t have dreamed of all those years ago when he first began playing the sport.

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