The United States men's national basketball team is the representative for the United States of America in international men's basketball. Team USA is historically the most prestigious and successful team in international competition, winning medals in all sixteen Olympic tournaments it has entered, coming away with thirteen golds. Despite this dominance, the United States currently trails Argentina in the FIBA world rakings.
Traditionally composed of amateur players, a 1989 rule change by FIBA allowed USA Basketball to field teams with professional players. The "Dream Team" won the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
With the introduction of professionals, Team USA was able to spark a second run of dominance after capturing only a bronze medal in 1988. A team of professional players competed in the 1994 Basketball World Championships, finishing first. In 1996, 2000, and 2008, Team USA again captured gold medals.
However, Team USA's renewed dominance has lessened in recent years. Facing increased competition from international teams, helped in no small way by the expansion of basketball sparked by the 1992 Dream Team, the USA failed to win a medal at the 2002 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 recent failures, USA Basketball has changed its philosophy and has looked to field complete teams instead of piecing together rosters of NBA All-Stars at the last minute. Team USA won their first seven games at the 2006 World Championships in Japan, losing against Greece in the semi-finals. Although only coming away with a bronze, Team USA finally recaptured international gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
As the nation that oversaw most of its early development, the United States possessed a clear advantage in the early decades of international play. The US men were dominant from the first Olympic tournament 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 (traditionally the winners of the NCAA tournament in an Olympic year would represent the US—e.g., 1952 NCAA winners Kansas won the gold in Helsinki), 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.
The 1972 Olympic men's basketball gold medal game, marking the first ever loss for Team 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.
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. A length of the court Soviet pass missed its mark, the horn sounded 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 Soviet's Aleksander Belov and the USA's Kevin Joyce and Jim Forbes went up for the pass, and Belov caught the long pass from Ivan Edeshko at the foul line, sending the two Americans sprawling. Belov then drove to the basket for the layup and the winning points as the buzzer sounded. The U.S. team quickly filed a protest after the game, which was heard by a five-man Jury of Appeal. In a 3-2 decision (divided along ideological lines between Communist and non-Communist countries), the Jury voted down the protest and awarded the gold medals to the Soviet team. The U.S. players voted unanimously to refuse their silver medals; several team members have directed in their wills that their heirs are never to accept the medals, even posthumously.
The 1980 U.S. team, which featured a number of future NBA players, was the youngest American national team ever assembled. 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.
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.
In regards to drug-testing the athletes, according to USA Basketball spokesperson 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.
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 basketball. 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. Because of this star line-up, the team's games usually featured opposing teams asking for pregame photos with their U.S. opponents—their idols.
The United States team also received much criticism after Charles Barkley elbowed one of the Angolan players in a flagrant foul, people began to refer to them as "the ugly Americans" and as bullies, Barkley didn't improve the situation after he made disparaging remarks about the Angolan players. This type of arrogant attitude gave the perception that these elite athletes were out of touch with the Olympic spirit.
The only two players on the team that were not named among the NBA 50 Greatest Players were Laettner and Mullin. Among the coaching staff, Wilkens was also named as one of the 50 Greatest Players. At the same time that the 50 Greatest Players were announced, Daly and Wilkens were named on the league's list of the Top 10 Coaches in NBA History.
In the quarter finals, Mullin scored a team high 21 points as the Dream Team scored a 115-77 victory over Puerto Rico. Team USA rolled on in the semis with a 51 point win over Lithuania (with then-current NBA player Šarūnas Marčiulionis and later NBA player Arvydas Sabonis). Nine US players scored in double figures. Jordan led the way in the gold medal game against Croatia (with five current or future NBA players in Dražen Petrović, Toni Kukoč, Dino Radja, Stojko Vranković, and Žan Tabak), scoring 22 points. Patrick Ewing had 15. Barkley had 17. The final game was the closest of the entire Olympics, with the Dream Team winning by 32 points in a 117-85 blowout to take the gold. The high point for Croatia was a brief 25-23 lead.
Charles Barkley led the star-studded squad in scoring (with an average of 18.0 points per game and a field goal percentage of 71.1%) followed by Mullin, who was also the second-leading scorer for the 1984 Olympic team. The Dream Team won the Olympic basketball tournament with an average margin of victory of 43.8 points and with coach Daly never using a timeout.
The Americans won another gold medal with an average margin of victory of 32.3 points per game. They captured the gold medal after defeating Yugoslavia 95–69.
The 700 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 7'2"/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 major shock came on the semifinals game when the United States managed to defeat Lithuania by only two points, 85–83, after Lithuanian star (and future NBA player, first with the Indiana Pacers and later with the Golden State Warriors) Šarūnas Jasikevičius missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the game.
The closeness of the semifinal game was so shocking that NBC took the extraordinary 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 1st, 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 very close game, 85-75. Though the US went undefeated on its way to the gold medal, for the first time the team began to lose its aura of invincibility.
However, the dominant team that competed in 2003 could not be kept together. For different reasons, 10 of its 12 players elected not to participate in Athens, causing USA Basketball to scramble to fill their places. The revamped 2004 team consisted of some young NBA stars early in their careers, such as Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, but also included recent Most Valuable Players Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson. The team was coached by Larry Brown.
After struggles in several exhibition matches, the vulnerability of the 2004 team was confirmed when Puerto Rico defeated them 92–73 in the very first game of the Olympic tournament in Athens. It was only the fourth defeat (the first three being against Argentina, Yugoslavia and Spain two years before). The 19 point defeat was the most lopsided loss for Team USA in the history of international competition, suggesting that the level of international basketball had caught up with that of the United States.
After winning close games against Greece and Australia, Team USA fell to Lithuania, dropping to 2–2 in the Olympic tournament. Even after an 89–53 win over Angola, the Americans entered the knockout rounds in fourth place due to goal average, the lowest seed of their group. The Americans faced undefeated Spain in their quarterfinal game and finally put up a dominant performance, beating the Spaniards 102–94.
However, the semi-final match saw Team USA defeated by Argentina, 89–81, ending the United States' hold on the gold medal. As in the World Tournament two years before, Argentina ended the run. Team USA did rebound to capture the bronze medal by defeating Lithuania. Still, it marked only the third time that an American team failed to win gold, and the first time for an American team composed of professionals. Before 2004, American teams had only lost two games in all previous Olympic tournaments, whereas in this one the American team lost three.
On May 23, 2007 it was reported that seven USA players would not be able to compete in the FIBA Americas Championship during the summer of 2007 because of injuries. Those seven players were Gilbert Arenas, Joe Johnson, Brad Miller, Lamar Odom, Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade.
In response, USA Basketball announced eight new players would be added to the USA Men's National Basketball Team. Those eight players were Carlos Boozer, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Jason Kidd, Mike Miller, Greg Oden, Tayshaun Prince and Deron Williams. Kobe Bryant who was supposed to be a member of the 2006 World Championships Team in 2006 but sat it out because of knee surgery finally made his debut with the team in 2007.
The United States dominated Group B in pool play, defeating China, Angola, Greece, world champion Spain, and Germany by an average of 32.2 points. After finishing first in their group, Team USA earned the right to play the fourth-place finishers in Group A, Australia. The United States soundly defeated Australia 116-85 in the quarterfinal matchup led by Kobe Bryant's 25 points. Next up for the Americans in the semifinals was the Manu Ginóbili-led and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Argentina. Behind Carmelo Anthony's 21 points, Team USA defeated Argentina 101-81 to reach the Gold medal game.
On August 24, 2008, the United States defeated Spain 118-107 to capture the Olympic gold medal. Dwyane Wade led the United States team with 27 points, 21 of those in the first half. Kobe Bryant contributed 20 points, 13 in the fourth quarter, including a key 4-point play with 3:10 remaining. Although the United States had soundly defeated Spain by 37 points in qualifying play, Spain kept this game remarkably close. The Americans' largest lead of the game was 14, and their lead was cut to 2 with about 9 minutes to play.
The official 12-man roster:
|} | valign="top" | Head coach
|Jimmy Needles||1936 Berlin||5||0|
|Omar Browning||1948 London||8||0|
|Warren Womble||1952 Helsinki||8||0|
|Gerald Tucker||1956 Melbourne||8||0|
|Pete Newell||1960 Rome||8||0|
|Henry Iba||1964 Tokyo||9||0|
|Henry Iba||1968 Mexico City||9||0||-||Henry Iba||1972 Munich||8||1||-||Dean Smith||1976 Montreal||7||0|
|Bob Knight||1984 Los Angeles||8||0|
|John Thompson||1988 Seoul||7||1|
|Chuck Daly||1992 Barcelona||8||0|
|Lenny Wilkens||1996 Atlanta||8||0|
|Rudy Tomjanovich||2000 Sydney||8||0|
|Larry Brown||2004 Athens||5||3|
|Mike Krzyzewski||2008 Beijing||8||0|
|Gordon Carpenter||1950 Argentina||5||1|
|Warren Womble||1954 Brazil||9||0|
|Charles Bennett||1959 Chile||7||2|
|Garland Pinholster||1963 Brazil||6||3||4th|
|Hal Fischer||1967 Uruguay||7||2||4th|
|Hal Fischer||1970 Yugoslavia||6||3||5th|
|Gene Bartow||1974 Puerto Rico||6||4|
|Bill Oates||1978 Philippines||9||1||5th|
|Bob Weltlich||1982 Colombia||7||2|
|Lute Olson||1986 Spain||9||1|
|Mike Krzyzewski||1990 Argentina||6||2|
|Don Nelson||1994 Canada||8||0|
|Rudy Tomjanovich||1998 Greece||7||2|
|George Karl||2002 United States||6||3||6th|
|Mike Krzyzewski||2006 Japan||8||1|
Frank Lubin, Sam Balter, Ralph Bishop, Joe Fortenberry, John Gibbons, Francis Johnson, Carl Knowles, Art Mollner, Donald Piper, Jack Ragland, Willard Schmidt, Carl Shy, Duane Swanson, William Wheatley (Coach: Jim Needles)
Bob Kurland, Gordon Carpenter, Clifford Barker, Don Barksdale, Ralph Beard, Lewis Beck, Vincent Boryla, Alex Groza, Wallace Jones, Ray Lumpp, Robert Pitts, Jesse Renick, Jack Robinson, Ken Rollins (Coach: Omar Browning)
John Stanich, Bob Fisher, Bryce Heffley, Tom Jaquet, Dan Kahler, John Langdon, Les Metzger, John Leonard Parks, Jimmy Reese, Don Slocum, Blake Williams (Coach: Gordon Carpenter)
Bob Kurland, Howard Williams, Dan Pippin, William Hougland, Charles Hoag, Clyde Lovellette, Melvin Kelley, Robert Kenney, Marcus Freiberger, Ronald Bontemps, Victor Wayne Glasgow, Frank McCabe, John Keller, Bill Lienhard (Coach: Warren Womble)
Joe Stratton, Bertram Born, Richard Gott, Forrest Hamilton, Bill Johnson, Allen Kelley, Kirby Minter, Don Penwell, Dick Retherford, Kendall Sheets, Ed Solomon, Jerry Arkarath (Coach: Warren Womble)
Bill Russell, William Hougland, Kenneth "K.C." Jones, Gilbert Ford, Burdette Haldorson, Carl Cain, Dick Boushka, James Walsh, Charles Darling, William Evans, Robert Jeangerard, Ron Tomsic (Coach: Gerald Tucker)
Jerry Vayda, Dick Baker, Jim Coshow, Hank D'Antonio, Bob Hodges, Eddie White, Robert Jeangerard, Henry McDonald, John F. Miller, Ronald Olsen, Virgil Riley, Dick Welsh (Coach: Charles "Buzz" Bennett)
Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Walter Bellamy, Jerry Lucas, Jay Arnette, Robert Boozer, Terry Dischinger, Adrian Smith, Burdette Haldorson, Lester Lane, Darrall Imhoff, Allen Kelley (Coach: Pete Newell)
Pete McCaffrey, Mel Peterson, Willis Reed, Mel Gibson, Bunk Adams, Jerry Shipp, Lucious Jackson, Charlie Bowerman, Walt Torrence, Vinnie Ernst, Ed Smallwood, Don Kojis (Coach: Garland Pinholster)
Bill Bradley, Larry Brown, Jim Barnes, Joe Caldwell, Pete McCaffrey, Melvin Counts, Richard Davies, Walt Hazzard, Lucious Jackson, Jerry Shipp, Jeff Mullins, George Wilson (Coach: Henry “Hank” Iba)
Stan McKenzie, Vern Benson, Darius Cunningham, John Clawson, Jay Miller, Michael Silliman, Charles Paulk, Mike Barrett, Darel Carrier, Albert Tucker, Kendall Rhine, Jim Williams (Coach: Hal Fischer)
Spencer Haywood, Mike Barrett, John Clawson, Don Dee, Calvin Fowler, Joseph "Jo Jo" White, Bill Hosket, Jim King, Glynn Saulters, Charles Scott, Mike Silliman, Ken Spain (Coach: Henry “Hank” Iba)
Tal Brody, Bill Walton, Kenny Washington, Brad Luchini, Michael Silliman, Bob Wolfe, Jim Williams, Art Wilmore, Darnell Hillman, Stan Isaac, Bruce McDonald, Garfield Smith (Coach: Hal Fischer)
Doug Collins, Jim Brewer, Ed Ratleff, Dwight Jones, Thomas Henderson, Tommy Burleson, Kevin Joyce, Bobby Jones, Kenny Davis, Mike Bantom, James Forbes, Tom McMillen (Coach: Henry “Hank” Iba)
John Lucas, Tom Boswell, Joe Meriweather, Rick Schmidt, Rich Kelley, Quinn Buckner, Myron Wilkins, Steve Grote, Luther Burden, Frank Oleynick, Eugene Short, Gus Gerard (Coach: Gene Bartow)
Adrian Dantley, Phil Ford, Steve Sheppard, Phil Hubbard, Mitch Kupchak, Michael "Tate" Armstrong, Quinn Buckner, Kenny Carr, Walter Davis, Ernie Grunfeld, Tom LaGarde, Scott May (Coach: Dean Smith)
Irvin Kiffin, Wayne Smith, Tim Hall, Derrick Jackson, Eugene Parker, Tom Schneeberger, Ernest Wansley, Marvin Delph, Ralph Drollinger, Brad Hoffman, Mike Jackson (Coach: Bill Oates)
Doc Rivers, Antoine Carr, John Pinone, Mitchell Wiggins, Jeff Turner, Joe Kleine, Earl Jones, Ted Kitchel, Fred Reynolds, Jon Sundvold, Jim Thomas, Mark West (Coach: Bob Weltlich)
Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Sam Perkins, Steve Alford, Vern Fleming, Joe Kleine, Jon Koncak, Alvin Robertson, Wayman Tisdale, Jeff Turner, Leon Wood (Coach: Bobby Knight)
David Robinson, Rony Seikaly, Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, Brian Shaw, Charles D.Smith, Kenny Smith, Derrick McKey, Tommy Amaker, Tom Hammonds, Armon Gilliam (Coach: Lute Olson)
David Robinson, Mitch Richmond, Stacey Augmon, Danny Manning, Dan Majerle, Herman “J.R.” Reid, Willie Anderson, Charles E.Smith, Hersey Hawkins, Charles D.Smith, Vernell Coles, Jeff Grayer (Coach: John Thompson)
Alonzo Mourning, Chris Gatling, Christian Laettner, Henry Williams, Kenny Anderson, Todd Day, Lee Mayberry, Billy Owens, Mark Randall, Chris Smith, Doug Smith, Bryant Stith (Coach: Mike Krzyzewski)
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Chris Mullin, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Christian Laettner (Coach: Chuck Daly)
Shaquille O'Neal, Dominique Wilkins, Alonzo Mourning, Shawn Kemp, Reggie Miller, Derrick Coleman, Joe Dumars, Kevin Johnson, Mark Price, Steve Smith, Dan Majerle, Larry Johnson (Coach: Don Nelson)
Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson, Gary Payton, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, Grant Hill, Reggie Miller, Mitch Richmond (Coach: Lenny Wilkens)
Trajan Langdon, Michael Hawkins, Wendell Alexis, Brad Miller, Bill Edwards, Kiwane Garris, Ashraf Amaya, Jason Sasser, Jimmy Oliver, Jimmy King, Gerard King, David Wood (Coach: Rudy Tomjanovich)
Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning, Steve Smith, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Vin Baker, Allan Houston, Antonio McDyess (Coach: Rudy Tomjanovich)
Reggie Miller, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace, Jermaine O'Neal, Shawn Marion, Baron Davis, Antonio Davis, Michael Finley, Andre Miller, Jay Williams, Elton Brand, Raef LaFrentz (Coach: George Karl)
Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Stephon Marbury, Richard Jefferson, Lamar Odom, Emeka Okafor (Coach: Larry Brown)
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Antawn Jamison, Brad Miller, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Paul, Joe Johnson (Coach: Mike Krzyzewski)
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd, Deron Williams (Coach: Mike Krzyzewski, Assistant Coaches: Mike D'Antoni, Jim Boeheim, Nate McMillan)