Former NBA player Chase Budinger is set to make his Olympic debut playing beach volleyball. GETTY IMAGES

Chase Budinger will make his Olympic debut this summer in Paris, qualifying with his partner Miles Evans after passing their countrymen Theo Brunner and Trevor Crabb in international rankings last month. The 36-year-old small forward who has played with the Phoenix Suns, Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets, retired from basketball in 2017 to play pro volleyball.

"I decided to see how far basketball could take me," Budinger told NBC. "But in the back of my mind, I knew I could always go back to volleyball after I was done with basketball."

The six-foot-seven, California native excelled in basketball and volleyball in high school, but chose to focus on basketball after signing with the University of Arizona: a college that does not sponsor men’s varsity volleyball. 

After playing in the NCAA, he was drafted 44th overall pick by the Detroit Pistons and went on to have a seven-year career in the NBA playing in over 400 games. His professional career took him to Spain, where he played for Saski Baskonia for a year before deciding to retire and make a career turnaround: focusing instead on beach volleyball.

Budinger made his debut on the AVP Tour, the premier professional volleyball league in the US, in 2018, and had five different partners before teaming with Evans in the 2023 season to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

"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. I was lucky enough to just transition into a different sport immediately and play at the highest level," he said on the Sandcast volleyball podcast in 2018.

Budinger and Evans were ranked fourth among American teams last fall before posting their best results together. They are now ranked second in the U.S. and 13th in the world. 

They will join Olympic beach teams who previously clinched spots, Kelly Cheng and Sara Hughes and Taryn Kloth and Kristen Nuss (both medal contenders) for the women and Andy Benesh and Miles Partain for the men.