Team USA Basketball enters the Rio Olympics with high expectations. After the debacle that was the 2004 Olympics, Team USA Basketball has not lost in Olympic play. How does the 2016 roster stack up against Team USA Basketball rosters of years past?
For any athlete in any sport, playing for their country in the Olympics is among the highest honors one can receive. Part of what makes the Olympic games so spectacular and awe-inspiring is the pure passion and dedication athletes have for their respective countries.
As it pertains to the Men’s Team USA Basketball roster, they’ve become a powerhouse over the past decade, to the point where anything less than a Gold Medal is considered coming up short. Since taking over, Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski have assembled rosters to the best of their abilities with the resources at hand. The USA roster consistently consists of NBA All Stars and MVP’s, which has given the Red White and Blue the upper hand dating back to 2008.
However, it has become common place for some athletes to skip the Olympics for their own personal reasons. Make no mistake, this is absolutely within their right, but it does make for some interesting comparisons.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry both opted to skip the Rio Olympics, as both competed in the NBA Finals not long ago. However, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Kyrie Irving all elected to play for Team USA. Again, these are players’ personal preferences; But with some players sitting out and others retired by this point in time, how does Team USA stack up against previous rosters of Team USA Basketball?
8 Points, 9 Seconds
After the tough 2004 showing, Team USA set out on a mission to begin a new era in 2008. The roster featured Kobe Bryant still in his prime, 23-year-old LeBron James, 24-year-old Carmelo Anthony, and Jason Kidd, at that point 35 years-old, competed as well. Team USA Basketball was able to prove that the flaws that plagued the 2004 team were in the past, as they averaged 106.2 points per game, while giving up just 78.4 points per game. The U.S ran the table, going 8-0 on their way to the Gold Medal.
Result oriented, this team was obviously perfect. But from a roster standpoint, it was also quite intriguing. Bryant, James, Kidd, Anthony, and Dwyane Wade were just a few of the contributors.
As the years go on, age obviously plays a role. Wade is now in the latter stages of his career, and Bryant and Kidd are retired. But eight years ago, this was a formidable roster in every sense, and it showed on the court as Team USA cruised to Gold.
The 2012 roster was arguably even better. Bryant, James, and Anthony returned, and were joined by the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Love, among others. The 2012 team, much like the 2008 team before, went on an undefeated 8-0 run that resulted in a Gold Medal. The 2012 team scored 115.5 points per game, while surrendering 83.4 points per game. If this roster were put together today, it would arguably fare even better.
The one glaring flaw would be Bryant, as he is retired and didn’t give the Rio Olympics a try. But take Anthony Davis, for example. He was just coming into the NBA and at the time was just 19. He played the smallest role on the team, being the only player to not play in all 8 games — he appeared in seven games, and played just over seven minutes per game — but in the years since, Davis has blossomed into a force to be reckoned with in the NBA. Davis had multiple surgeries this past year, so he is sitting out the Olympics, but if he could have played this year, he would’ve brought a unique skill set that few on a global scale can match.
The Team USA Basketball roster for Rio has plenty of proven stars, and has a great chance to run the table as the 2008 and 2012 teams did in Beijing and London. But the roster could have been better. If Davis could have played, he likely would have taken DeAndre Jordan‘s roster spot. If LeBron James played, Harrison Barnes likely wouldn’t be on the roster.
Once again, Colangelo and Coach K have done their best assembling the roster from a pool of players who have made themselves eligible. But teams of the past contained legends. Bryant and James, as well as Kidd are all headed to the Hall of Fame in the future. If there is a player on track for legendary status on the Rio roster, it is Kevin Durant. But Team USA Basketball does consist of champions; Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. There is certainly a winning pedigree on the roster.
The 2016 iteration of Team USA Basketball is well-equipped to win Gold, and should do just that. The NBA is the best league in the world, meaning Team USA for the most part has the most talented pool of players to pick from. While it’s true that some former Olympic mainstays have retired, and others have declined to participate, Team USA is still the best team in the field, and that should reflect once they hit the floor in Rio.