Eight teams qualified during the qualification tournaments held in their respective zones in 1989; two teams (USA and Canada) qualified automatically since they are the only members of the North America zone.
The top four teams from each group advance to the knockout round. The losers from the knockout quarterfinals compete in a separate bracket to define fifth through eighth place.
Results and standings among teams within the same group are carried over.
The winners in the knockout semifinals advanced to the Final and were granted berths in the 1990 FIBA World Championship in Argentina. The losers figure in a third-place playoff and were both also granted berths in the FIBA World Championship. Since Argentina and the United States were already qualified as hosts and Olympic Champions respectively, should they reach one of the top four positions in the final standings, one or two extra berths should be granted to the fifth and/or sixth team in the final standings.