United States men's national basketball team

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United States United States
Usa basketball 2012.png
FIBA ranking 1 Steady
Joined FIBA 1934
FIBA zone FIBA Americas
National federation USA Basketball
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Olympic Games
Appearances 17
Medals Gold medal.svg Gold: 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1976, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2012
Silver medal.svg Silver: 1972
Bronze medal.svg Bronze: 1988, 2004
FIBA World Cup
Appearances 17
Medals Gold medal with cup.svg Gold: 1954, 1986, 1994, 2010
Silver medal with cup.svg Silver: 1950, 1959, 1982
Bronze medal with cup.svg Bronze: 1974, 1990, 1998, 2006
FIBA Americas Championship
Appearances 9
Medals Gold medal america.svg Gold: 1992, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2007
Silver medal america.svg Silver: 1989
Pan American Games
Appearances 16
Medals Gold medal america.svg Gold: 1951, 1955, 1959, 1963, 1967, 1975, 1979, 1983
Silver medal america.svg Silver: 1987, 1995, 1999
Bronze medal america.svg Bronze: 1991, 2011
Uniforms
Kit body thinsidesonwhite.png
Home jersey
Kit shorts blanksides2.png
Team colours
Home
Kit body thinredsides.png
Away jersey
Kit shorts redsides.png
Team colours
Away

The USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team,[1] commonly known as the United States men's national basketball team, represents the United States of America in international men's basketball. The USA is the most successful team in international competition, winning medals in all seventeen Olympic tournaments it has entered, coming away with fourteen golds. Two of its gold medal-winning squads were inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as teams in August 2010—the 1960 team, which featured six Hall of Famers (4 players, 2 coaches), and the 1992 "Dream Team", featuring 14 Hall of Famers (11 players, 3 coaches).[2] The United States is currently ranked first in the FIBA World Rankings.

Traditionally composed of amateur players, a 1989 rule change by FIBA allowed USA Basketball to field teams with professional players. The first such team, known as the "Dream Team", won the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, playing in the final against Croatia.[3][4][5]

With the introduction of professionals, the team was able to spark a second run of dominance after capturing only a bronze medal in 1988. A team of professional players competed at the 1994 FIBA World Championship, finishing first. In 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2012 the USA again captured gold medals.

Facing increased competition, the USA failed to win a medal at the 2002 FIBA World Championship, finishing sixth. The 2004 Summer Olympic team lost three games on its way to a bronze medal, a record that represented more losses in a single year than the country's Olympic teams had suffered in all previous Olympiads combined.

Determined to put an end to these failures, USA Basketball initiated a long-term project aimed at creating better, more cohesive teams. The USA won its first seven games at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan before losing against Greece in the semi-finals, ending the competition with the bronze medal. The USA won gold two years later, though, at the 2008 Summer Olympics with a dominant performance. This success was followed up at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, where despite fielding a roster featuring no players from the 2008 Olympic team, the USA did not lose a single game en route to defeating host Turkey for the gold medal. The USA continued this streak of dominance by going undefeated and capturing gold once more at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

History[edit]

1936–68: Early dominance[edit]

The United States possessed a clear advantage in the early decades of international play (though they were defeated by Argentina in the First FIBA World Championships in 1950). The US men were dominant from the first Olympic tournament to hold basketball, held in Berlin in 1936, going 5–0 to win the gold, and joined by continental neighbors Canada and Mexico on the medal platform. Through the next six tournaments, the United States went undefeated, collecting gold while not losing a single contest in the games held in London, Helsinki, Melbourne, Rome, Tokyo, and Mexico City. Participation in these tournaments were limited to amateurs, but the US teams during this period featured players who would later go on to become superstars in professional basketball, including all-time greats Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, and Jerry Lucas; the latter three competed on the 1960 Rome team often credited as the best U.S. roster until the formation of the 1992 Dream Team.[6]

Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, both briefly NBA stars, made the 1948 squad as Kentucky Wildcats, with 3-time Oklahoma State All-American and 6-time AAU All-American, and Hall of Famer Bob Kurland leading the way. The 1952 team included big man Clyde Lovellette of the University of Kansas, a future Hall of Famer and NBA star, but Kurland once again led the team to victory. The 1956 team was led by San Francisco Dons Bill Russell and K.C. Jones.

The 1960 team included nine future NBA players, including not just Robertson, Lucas and West, but Bob Boozer, Adrian Smith [1966 All Star game MVP], Jay Arnette Terry Dischinger, Rookie of the Year in 1963, and another Hall of Famer in Walt Bellamy.[7]

1970s–1980s[edit]

1972 Controversy at Munich Olympics[edit]

The 1972 Olympic men's basketball gold medal game, marking the first ever loss for the USA in Olympic play, is arguably the most controversial in Olympic history. The United States rode their seven consecutive gold medals and 63–0 Olympic record to Munich for the 1972 Summer Olympics. The team won its first eight games in convincing fashion, setting up a final against the Soviet Union.[8]

With three seconds left in the gold medal game, American forward Doug Collins sank two free throws to put the Americans up 50–49. However, the buzzer sounded before Collins' second free throw. Immediately following Collins' free throws, the Soviets inbounded the ball and failed to score. But one official had whistled play to stop with one second remaining after hearing the earlier horn and seeing a disturbance near the scorers table. The Soviets argued that they had requested a timeout before Collins' foul shots. The referees ordered the clock reset to three seconds and the game's final seconds replayed. However, the clock was in the process of being reset when the referees put the ball in play. The horn once again sounded as a length-of-the-court Soviet pass was being released from the inbounding player, the pass missed its mark, and the U.S. again began celebrating.

However, R. William Jones, Secretary General of FIBA, ordered the clock to be reset again at 0:03 and the game replayed from that point. This time, the Soviets' Alexander Belov and the USA's Kevin Joyce and Jim Forbes went up for the pass, and Belov caught the long pass from Ivan Edeshko near the American basket, sending the two Americans sprawling. Belov then laid the ball in for the winning points as the buzzer sounded. Herbert Mols, Resident Manager of the US team with help from MK Summers, President of the US Olympic Basketball Committee, filed an extensive and detailed appeal, protesting the final game result to a five-man Jury of Appeal, which voted down the protest and awarded the gold medals to the Soviet team. The U.S. players voted unanimously to refuse their silver medals, and at least one team member, Kenny Davis, has directed in his will that his heirs are never to accept the medals, even posthumously.[9]

1976–80: Bounce back and boycott[edit]

After the controversial loss in Munich, 1976 saw Dean Smith coach the USA to a 7–0 record and its eighth Olympic gold medal in Montreal. The success at this tournament pushed the USA's all-time Olympic record to an impressive 78–1.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan prompted 62 countries, including the United States, to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.[10]

The 1980 U.S. team, which featured a number of future NBA players, was the youngest American national team ever assembled. This team featured: Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, Sam Bowie, Michael Brooks, Bill Hanzlik, Alton Lister, Rodney McCray, Isiah Thomas, Darnell Valentine, Danny Vranes, Buck Williams and Al Wood.[11] Unable to compete in the Olympics due to the boycott, it instead participated in the "Gold Medal Series", a series of games against NBA all-star teams in various U.S. cities, recording a 5–1 record.[11] It was coached by Dave Gavitt.

1984 Olympics (Los Angeles)[edit]

In response to the American-led boycott of the 1980 games, the Soviet Union led a boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics. The Communist countries of Cuba, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Afghanistan, North Korea, Vietnam, Angola, Ethiopia, and Laos boycotted the 1984 Games, held in Los Angeles.[12]

Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and Chris Mullin, future members of the '92 Dream Team, made their Olympic debuts. Jordan led the team with 17.1 points per game, and Bob Knight coached the team to an 8–0 record and another Olympic gold.

1988 Olympics (Seoul)[edit]

A roster that included future NBA all-stars David Robinson and Mitch Richmond came up short, winning the bronze medal. The American team lost its only game to the Soviets 82–76, then went on to beat Australia 78–49 in the bronze medal game. Dan Majerle led the team in scoring, averaging 14.1 points per game. This was the last time the American Team consisted of only amateur college stars.

1990s[edit]

1992 Olympics (Barcelona) – The Dream Team[edit]

In 1989, FIBA, international basketball's governing body, allowed professional NBA players to participate in the Olympics for the first time. Prior to the 1992 Summer Olympics, only European and South American professionals were allowed to play in the Olympics.

The team assembled by USA Basketball for the tournament in Barcelona in 1992 was one of the most illustrious collections of talent assembled in the history of international sport. Of the twelve players on the team, ten were named in 1996 among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, the NBA's official list of the 50 greatest players of the league's first 50 years. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird served as co-captains.[13]

Because of this star line-up, the team's games usually featured opposing teams asking for pregame photos and autographs with their U.S. opponents—their idols. The USA team was so much better than the competition that head coach Chuck Daly did not call a single timeout during the tournament.[14] Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen became the first players to win both NBA championship and Olympic gold medal in the same year, having played for the Chicago Bulls.

Regarding drug-testing the athletes, according to USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller, "Since 1990, all of our teams have been tested in competition. I believe since around 1988 we have also been subject to out-of-competition testing. We have been 100 percent fully compliant with USADA and WADA."[15]

1994 FIBA World Championship (Canada) – Dream Team II[edit]

The United States fielded another team composed of professional players in the 1994 World Championship, held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This was an entirely new roster, as USA Basketball elected to showcase stars who were not present at the 1992 Olympics. Composed primarily of younger NBA players, the team lacked the widespread appeal of its predecessor but nevertheless continued its dominance. Those players were Derrick Coleman, Joe Dumars, Kevin Johnson, Larry Johnson, Shawn Kemp, Dan Majerle, Reggie Miller, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O'Neal, Mark Price, Steve Smith and Dominique Wilkins. Coached by Don Nelson of the Golden State Warriors, this team easily captured the gold medal in tournament play.[16] The team was marketed as "Dream Team II".[17][18]

1996 Olympics (Atlanta) – Dream Team III[edit]

The third team composed of NBA players participated in the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The star quality of the team was impressive as it featured five members of the original Dream Team (Barkley, Malone, Pippen, Robinson, and Stockton), plus two other members of the NBA 50 Greatest Players list, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal. Lenny Wilkens coached the team.

The Americans won another gold medal with an average margin of victory of 31.8 points per game. They captured the gold medal after defeating Yugoslavia 95–69.[19] With Atlanta being home to the Hawks, these games were the first Olympics to take place in a city with an NBA team since the league started allowing its players to compete in the Olympics.

The team was commonly referred to and marketed as "Dream Team III".[20][21]

1998 FIBA World Championship (Greece) – The Dirty Dozen[edit]

The 1998 World Championship in Athens, Greece was different from the previous teams, as none of its players were current members of NBA teams. Because of a labor dispute that led to a lockout, no active NBA players were permitted to compete in the tournament. The 12 NBA players picked before the lockout were Tim Duncan, Tim Hardaway, Vin Baker, Gary Payton, Terrell Brandon, Kevin Garnett, Tom Gugliotta, Grant Hill, Allan Houston, Christian Laettner, Glen Rice, and Chris Webber.[22]

The replacement team was composed largely of players from American colleges, the minor-league Continental Basketball Association, or European pro leagues. The unheralded roster captured a bronze medal, considered a solid achievement given its lack of top-notch talent.[23] The team was nicknamed the "Dirty Dozen" for its work ethic and teamwork. Undrafted free agent Brad Miller became a two-time NBA All-Star. Some of the other team members—including Trajan Langdon, Kiwane Garris and Michael Hawkins—had brief spells in the NBA. All went on to have careers in Europe, with Langdon being named to the Euroleague's All-Decade Team for the 2000s.

2000s[edit]

2000 Olympics U.S. Men's Basketball Team[edit]

During the late 1990s, international basketball began to gather attention as more and more foreign players became stars in the NBA. Therefore, the 2000 U.S. team had the enormous task of proving that American basketball could remain the best in the world. The new team that was assembled again featured NBA players, but this time few of them were considered to be true superstars, as several elite players elected not to participate.

The U.S. team participated in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia and was coached by Rudy Tomjanovich. It won its first two games by lopsided margins, but faced more difficult competition thereafter. A preliminary game against Lithuania, the U.S. team won 85–76, marking the first time a team of professional American players failed to win by double digits. Two games later, in a 106–94 victory over France, Vince Carter pulled off one of the most famous dunks in basketball history, jumping over the 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) French center Frédéric Weis on his way to the basket. (The French media would dub Carter's feat le dunk de la mort—"the dunk of death".)

A shock came in the semifinals when the United States defeated Lithuania by the close score of 85–83. Lithuanian star (and future NBA player, first with the Indiana Pacers and later with the Golden State Warriors) Šarūnas Jasikevičius missed a desperation 3 at the buzzer that would have won the game.

The closeness of the semifinal game was so shocking that NBC took the unusual step of showing the gold medal game live rather than on tape delay. (The game started around 2 p.m. Sydney time on Sunday October 1, which is late Saturday evening in the USA. NBC originally planned to show the game almost 24 hours later during its Sunday prime time broadcast.) The USA won the gold medal against France in a close game, 85–75. Though the US went undefeated on its way to the gold medal, the team began to lose its aura of invincibility for the first time.[24]

2002 FIBA World Championship (USA)[edit]

The 2002 team competed in the World Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Coached by George Karl, the team finished a surprisingly disappointing sixth in the competition. During the tournament, Argentina defeated the USA in the second preliminary round group stage, thus becoming the first team ever to defeat a USA team composed of NBA players. Yugoslavia knocked out the USA in the quarterfinals and then Spain repeated the outcome in the 5th place playoff.[25] To a greater degree than in 2000, a number of top NBA players declined to participate, forcing USA Basketball to resort to picking mostly second-tier players. George Karl had a dispute with Paul Pierce, one of the few superstars on the team, which led to Karl benching Pierce, the team's leading scorer, in Team USA's final game. The group has been considered as one of sport's greatest flops, as they failed to produce as previous teams had. The United States lost 3 games in the tournament to countries with current or future NBA stars, like Argentina (led by Manu Ginóbili), Yugoslavia (led by Peja Stojaković and Vlade Divac) and Spain (led by Pau Gasol).

Two NBA superstars, Ray Allen and Jason Kidd, accepted roles to play on the World Championship team, but were unable to play on that team due to injuries. Many other superstars, including Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kevin Garnett, turned down invitations to play in that tournament.

2004 Olympics (Athens)[edit]