Olympic History

Basketball made its Olympic debut at the 1936 Berlin Games and has appeared at every Olympics since. Only a men’s tournament was held for the first eight editions, and a women’s tournament was added at the 1976 Montreal Games. Prior to the 1992 Barcelona Games, only non-NBA professionals were allowed to compete, but in 1989, basketball’s international governing body voted to allow NBA players to participate. The arrival of the United States “Dream Team” in 1992 dazzled the Spanish crowds and the world. The Americans cruised to gold that year in perhaps the most commanding performance in Olympic history, winning all if their eight games by an average of nearly 44 points a game. At the 2012 London Olympics, a record 41 players on NBA rosters at the time participated on their respective national teams, and 11 of the 12 teams had at least one player with NBA experience.

Above the rim

Team USA has dominated basketball in the Olympics, winning 14 of the 18 men’s tournament it has entered and seven of the 10 on the women’s side. The U.S. men have collected five of the last six gold medals, only falling short in 2004 when they lost to Argentina in the semifinals, eventually taking bronze. The U.S. women claimed their fifth consecutive gold medal in London and have won 41 consecutive games at the Olympics, a streak that began in the bronze medal game at the 1992 Barcelona Games. During the run, the U.S. has won by nearly 30 points a game and only one team has stayed within single digits. The U.S. men and women have swept the basketball gold medals at five Olympics: 1984, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012.

Record Books

At the 2012 London Games, the U.S. men had a record-breaking performance against Nigeria in the preliminary round, defeating the African nation, 156-73. The Americans set Olympic records for most points in a game (156) and most points in the first half (78). They also achieved several U.S. Olympic records:

  • largest margin of victory – 83
  • 3-point field goals made – 26
  • field goals made – 59
  • field-goal percentage – 71
  • most points in a game – 37 by Carmelo Anthony
  • most 3-point field goals made in a game – 10 by Carmelo Anthony