For decades, the lure of representing your country in the Olympic games has been too good to pass up on for NBA stars. Team USA has always been able to send out the games best stars to represent them in the Olympics and that has led to historic results.
Team USA has won a total of 15 gold medals in men’s basketball and comes into the games as the three-time defending champions. This year’s roster however was created due to the motivation of something that Team USA has heard little of: defeat.
The 2019 FIBA World Cup ended in disappointing fashion for Team USA as the team was unable to even make it past the quarterfinals. Team USA finished the tournament in 7th place with a roster featuring Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell as the team's best players.
During that entire tournament, the big story was NBA stars choosing to focus on the upcoming season rather than playing for their country. Following the loss however, stars of this current Olympic roster including Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers announced their commitment to Team USA to help get the team back on top.
That being said, it’s clear that this Olympic roster is lightyear’s better than that 2019 FIBA World Cup team. But is it better than those stacked Team USA gold medal teams from the past?
Sure Lillard, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker give the Team USA roster the starpower Team USA was looking for, but it doesn’t feature the Hall of Fame ability from top to bottom which the 1992 Dream Team and even possibly the 2012 Redeem Team both possessed.
That 1992 Dream Team, which featured Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson among others, combined for a total of 117 all-star game appearances. The 2012 Redeem Team, saw LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the previously mentioned Kevin Durant join the team, came close in all-star game appearances with 102 although that number could still rise.
This year’s Olympic roster comes nowhere close to those numbers with only 35 all-star appearances combined. Like the 2012 roster, that number will definitely rise in the coming years but there is a good chance it will still finish nowhere near the number of those two elite teams.
Despite not being as good as some of the all-time great Olympic rosters, head coach Greg Popovich and the decision makers for the team did a great job in bringing the excitement back of being able to represent Team USA.
While some stars who represented Team USA in the past still declined, it was still a major step up from 2019 to be able to fill a roster from top to bottom with some of the best the game of basketball has to offer.
Bringing Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, who were both on the 2016 Olympic roster, back to the team provides great veteran leadership. Both Khris Middelton and Jayson Tatum were two of the top players on that disappointing 2019 FIBA World Cup team and they will get a second chance at the gold, this time on a much better roster.
This year may not have been about building a roster that could compete with some of the top Team USA teams of all-time but is one that could help set up the rebirth of Team USA basketball for the future.
One positive that this roster has is that a majority of the players on it are currently in or are about to reach their prime years. Many of the players on this roster could be a part of future Olympic teams down the road and could play alongside the future stars of tomorrow.
Exhibition loss to Team Nigeria aside, this year’s Team USA team is still built for success with a ton of promise for both this year and for hopefully a few future title defenses down the road.