Ex-NBA player, Arizona star Chase Budinger qualifies for Olympics in beach volleyball

Chase Budinger’s quest from ex-NBA player to Olympic beach volleyball player is complete.

The former NBA veteran and his beach volleyball partner, Miles Evans, secured the final spot on the United States’ beach volleyball roster for the 2024 Summer Olympics on Wednesday. After the duo surpassed fellow Americans Theo Brunner and Trevor Crabb in the international rankings in May, Budinger and Evans clinched their ticket to the Olympics after Brunner and Crabb lost their first match in a qualifying tournament.

Budinger, 36, has been on the beach volleyball circuit since 2018. He opted to switch careers a year prior, retiring from basketball after seven seasons in the NBA and a year playing professionally in Spain. 

While Budinger enjoyed a standout career at Arizona in college, he was also an elite volleyball player in high school. He led his high school’s volleyball team to three state titles and was named National Player of the Year by Volleyball Magazine when he was a senior. 

Budinger, who stands at 6-foot-7, told NBC sports in 2018 that he always knew in the “back of my mind” that he could play volleyball again if his basketball career went south, noting that he played recreationally with Kevin Love, Richard Jefferson and Luke Walton. 

“Most guys, when they finish a sport, they’re kind of confused, or they’re kind of lost for the next journey or whatever life takes them next,” Budinger said in a separate interview with the “Sandcast” volleyball podcast in 2018. “I was lucky enough to just transition into a different sport immediately and play at the highest level.”

Evans is the sixth partner that Budinger has played with in his career, teaming up with the now-34-year-old ahead of the 2023 season. After ranking fourth among American teams last fall, Budinger and Evans now rank 13th in the world.

Budinger is the first player to ever play in both an NBA regular-season game and Olympic beach volleyball, and he’s the second NBA player to participate in an Olympic volleyball tournament, according to NBC sports. Keith Erickson was the first, playing for the United States’ men’s volleyball team in the 1964 Summer Olympics before enjoying a 12-year NBA career.

This will also mark Evans’ first trip to the Olympics. Andy Benesh and Miles Partain are the other American men’s beach volleyball team in this year’s Summer Olympics. 

The United States has had good success in men’s beach volleyball since it became an Olympic event in 1996, winning the gold medal three times. However, it hasn’t medaled since the 2008 Summer Olympics. 

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