Team USA Basketball is the foremost national basketball team program in the world. However, even it does not have an invincible record.
Basketball has been a regular feature at the Summer Olympics since it was first introduced at Berlin 1936. Hitler might’ve wanted his own German team to win the tournament, but they were no match for the Americas.
Team Canada and Team Mexico won silver and bronze at that edition – their only medals in Olympics basketball history. As expected, Team USA came away with gold. Basketball’s original creator Dr James Naismith was present in Berlin to dole out medals to the winners.
This was the beginning of the most dominant Olympics basketball run that the USA has displayed thus far. They won gold at the next 6 Olympics too, from 1948 to 1968.
They did it despite fielding players from college basketball for each of these tournaments, instead of sending pros. This was a mark of just how sound their college system was, back at the time. Their run of 63 wins before encountering their first loss is proof.
Their first non-gold result came in 1972 when Russia beat them in the tournament final 51-50 as part of one of the most controversial basketball games of all time.
The only time in Olympics basketball history that they didn’t medal was at 1980 – when they didn’t send any American athletes to the Moscow Olympics.
But they lost again to Soviet Union at the 1988 Olympics with college players, and that was the end of the rope for them. Team USA has sent NBA players for the Olympics basketball tournament every year since 1992.
Has Team USA Basketball ever lost in non-Olympics competition?
FIBA tournaments usually don’t spur the best of American basketball talent to commit to Team USA basketball. Team USA Basketball has registered some really tough non-Olympics losses in international competitions in the last 20 years.
The very first of these losses came at the 2002 FIBA World Cup. Team USA lost 87-80 to an Argentine national team with few NBA players of its own. This loss on home turf came after a run of 58 straight wins for Team USA since it began featuring NBA players.
That wasn’t where the trouble ended either. Team USA lost both of its 5th-8th classification matches – one to Puerto Rico and another to Spain.
The ignominy for the national team continued at the 2006 FIBA World Cup. Despite sending a team featuring future All-NBA talents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, they were dealt a shocking loss by Greece in the semifinal.
They broke the spell in 2010 and 2014, but yet another weakened squad in 2019 meant that Team USA finished at its worst qualification ranking ever of 7th at the 2019 FIBA World Championship.
Has Team USA Basketball ever lost in Olympics competition?
Larry Brown was the head coach of Team USA basketball at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Most American basketball fans rank this tournament as their biggest disappointment in Olympics history.
Their squad featuring Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury at their peak finished with the bronze medal. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James weren’t given good minutes by the head coach, who trusted his veterans more.
Due to their losses in 3 successive major basketball tournaments, coach K requested Kobe Bryant to pull on the national team colors, and the Lakers legend did so for the first time in 2006.
He was able to give LeBron James his first taste of real success as a basketball pro, leading the 2008 Olympics basketball team to gold in Beijing. This team was popularly dubbed as the ‘Redeem Team’.