USA koondisel oli 2002. aasta MMil kasutada küll kodupubliku toetus, kuid see neid kokkuvõttes ei aidanud. Foto:
USA koondisel oli 2002. aasta MMil kasutada küll kodupubliku toetus, kuid see neid kokkuvõttes ei aidanud. Foto:

The remarkable World Cup collapse of the USA Dream Team

Basketball OlyBet 08.09.2023

While the USA has historically dominated the basketball world, their team reached unparalleled heights of invincibility during the 1990s. The NBA stars remained unbeaten in their pursuit of championship titles for an astounding decade until 2002, when the winds of change swept in.

To narrate this story, we must rewind the clock to 1992. Prior to this, owing to FIBA regulations, American teams could only field amateur athletes, predominantly consisting of college players, in international competitions. However, a significant alteration occurred for the Barcelona Olympics, as the USA was permitted to enlist NBA players for the first time.

The likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, and college standout Christian Laettner left an incredible mark on the basketball courts in Barcelona. Affectionately named the “Dream Team,” they dominated every game, beating their opponents with an average margin of 44 points and clinching the Olympic gold with ease.

They were unstoppable

The appearance of NBA stars at the World Cup in 1994 had a similar outcome. Dream Team II breezed through to the finals, where they slaughtered Russia with a resounding 137-91 victory. Consequently, it became an expectation that whenever the Americans were represented by NBA players, gold medals would inevitably follow. This prediction held true in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000. Only in the 1998 World Cup, when the USA was forced to rely on “secondary” players due to a Dream League hiatus, did they settle for a bronze medal.

Thus, when the NBA players reconvened for the 2002 home World Cup, American expectations ran high once more.

Everything looked promising

The journey started well with a roster featuring Reggie Miller, Paul Pierce, Shawn Marion, Baron Davis, Elton Brand, Jermaine O’Neal, and Ben Wallace. They won all three group-stage matches convincingly: Algeria 110-60, Germany 104-87, and China 84-65. The next round also began on a promising note with victories over Russia (106-82) and New Zealand (110-62). However, out of the blue, they suffered an unexpected setback, losing to Argentina 80-87.

This defeat, occurring in a group game, was initially viewed as a minor setback. Regrettably, it foreshadowed their struggles, as the team, under the guidance of George Karl, also faced adversity in the quarter-finals against Yugoslavia (78-81), ultimately missing out on the medal rounds.

Without the motivation, the Americans secured the 5th-8th place bracket by defeating Puerto Rico 84-74. However, in the 5th-6th place match, they were bested by the Spaniards 75-81.

The 2002 home tournament, held in Indianapolis, culminated with the USA finishing in a disappointing sixth place.

The previous World Cup

The subsequent World Cup performance was even worse. This marked a low point for the American team as they finished seventh under the tutelage of the renowned Gregg Popovich.

In 2019, the group stage appeared promising, with victories against Czechia (88-67), Turkey (93-92 in overtime), Japan (98-45), Greece (69-53), and Brazil (89-73). However, their playoff journey stumbled in the first hurdle against France (79-89). In the subsequent placement match, they suffered another setback, falling to Serbia with a score of 89-94, ultimately settling for 7th-8th place by defeating Poland 87-74.

It’s worth noting that the 2019 World Cup squad lacked a true A-list superstar, relying instead on players like Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell.

This year, the leadership falls upon the 22-year-old Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Supporting him at the World Cup in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia will be Jalen Brunson, Tyrese Haliburton, Paolo Banchero, Mikal Bridges, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Jaren Jackson Jr., Cameron Johnson, Walker Kessler, Bobby Portis, and Austin Reaves. The extent to which Steve Kerr’s coaching can guide this team remains to be seen, with the answer becoming clear by the end of this week.


This piece of content has been lovingly crafted by the hard-working sports people of OlyBet. Hope you like it!