Men's Basketball: The Top 10 Olympians on Team USA Since 1992

Bell MalleyAnalyst IIIAugust 18, 2012

Men's Basketball: The Top 10 Olympians on Team USA Since 1992

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    On Sunday, August 12, 2012, the United States Men's Basketball team captured its 14th gold medal in 17 Olympic appearances.

    In 1992, professional players were allowed to compete. From that years' "Dream Team" to 2012's squad, the USA has won five of a possible six golds, excluding a bronze medal in 2004.

    Over those 20 years, there have been some outstanding players that have taken center stage at the Olympic Games.

    In 1992, legends such as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson were the team's leaders. In 2012, new blood like Kevin Durant and LeBron James paved the way to glory.

    This list dissects the top 10 greatest U.S. Olympians since professionals were allowed to compete in Barcelona '92.

    There are only three critical elements examined.

    First off, the success of the team (If the best players on the '04 team never competed in another Olympics, they will not be included).

    Also, amounts of Olympic Games participated in (Vince Carter was breathtaking in 2000, but never appeared again).

    Last, but not least, personal success (John Stockton played on two teams and totaled 41 points and 30 assists).

    With that said, enjoy the list!

Honorable Mention

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    Those who just missed the cut:

    Vince Carter (2000 gold medalist)

    Was a star in Sydney, but didn't appear ever again.

    John Stockton (Won golds in 1992 and 1996)

    Appeared for two great teams, but was a bench warmer both times.

    Kevin Durant (2012 gold medalist)

    Was great in 2012, and will probably make list one day. Not quite there yet.

    Chris Paul (Won golds in 2008 and 2012)

    Has been floor general for two excellent teams, but is too overshadowed by Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Melo.

10: Dwyane Wade

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    Olympic Appearances: 2 (2004, 2008)

    Medals: 1x Gold ('08) 1x Bronze ('04)

    The 2004 team, for whom Dwayne played after completing his rookie season for the Miami Heat, struggled mightily in the Olympics. They lost three games and ended up with the bronze medal. Wade was one of the bright spots, as he finished fourth on the team with 7.3 points per game.

    Back in 2008, once he had solidified himself as an NBA superstar, "Flash" led the "redeem team" in scoring, averaging 16.1 points a night. He also was amongst the tournament leaders in both rebounds and steals.

    Being the leading scorer for a gold medal-winning team is a tall task in itself, but Wade showed up for the big games, leading the way with 27 points in the final.

    Wade has been solid in both of his Olympic appearances, but his 2008 showing in Beijing lands him a place on this list.

9: Magic Johnson

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    Olympic Appearances: 1 (1992)

    Medals: 1x Gold ('92)

    Magic, who came out of retirement to compete as part of the 1992 "Dream Team," was the most popular player on a team that had the best talent ever assembled on a basketball court. 

    Despite time away from the game, Johnson still dominated the field with his dazzling passes and finished the Barcelona games with averages of eight points and 5.5 dimes a game.

    The L.A. Lakers great was more of a U.S. icon, but he still was a vital cog to the greatest basketball team ever put together.

8: Karl Malone

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    Olympic Appearances: 2 (1992, 1996)

    Medals: 2x Gold ('92, '96)

    Karl Malone was another member of the heralded 1992 Dream Team that coasted to a gold medal in Barcelona.

    The ex-Utah Jazz star was the third-leading scorer on that team, and was also among the best rebounders.

    He returned to the Games in Atlanta four years later, and was once again a key piece on a title-winning squad.

    "The Mailman" has played for two of the best basketball teams ever, and each time was one of the best players. One of the great Olympians of all time.

7: Carmelo Anthony

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    Olympic Appearances: 3 (2004, 2008, 2012)

    Medals: 2x Gold ('08, '12) 1x Bronze ('04)

    Carmelo Anthony had just finished his rookie season when he appeared on the 2004 USA Men's Basketball Olympic team. And it showed.

    The former Denver Nuggets star averaged just over two points for the Athens Games bronze medalists.

    However, chosen by Coach Mike Krzyzewski for the 2008 and 2012 winners, 'Melo flourished in the international tournaments. He averaged over 11 points in Beijing, good for fourth on the team, and then 16.8 in only 17 minutes during the London triumph, including a 37-point outburst against Nigeria.

    The performance was the most ever scored in an Olympic game and included a record 10 three-pointers.

    Anthony proved with his 2012 performance that he is among the league's best scorers—and the USA's best Olympic basketball players.

6: Scottie Pippen

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    Olympic Appearances: 2 (1992, 1996)

    Medals: 2x Gold ('92, '96)

    Pippen is the third member of the Dream Team to appear on this list. The six-time NBA champion was not the first option in either of his Olympic triumphs, but both times was one of the more complete players.

    He was a defensive quarterback and the lead assist man on the Dream Team, and was the third-leading scorer on the Dream Team II in 1996.

    Pippen also remains the only player to capture the Olympic gold and an NBA Championship in the same year twice.

    One of the most consistent members in Team USA history obviously deserves this spot.

5: David Robinson

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    Olympic Appearances: 2 (1992, 1996)

    Medals: 2x Gold ('92, '96)

    The fourth Dream Team member is also the final of three players to have won the gold in both 1992 and 1996.

    Both years, the former San Antonio Spurs star was one of the frontline anchors and among the top interior defenders.

    During the 1996 Dream Team II, "The Admiral" led the team in scoring, putting up 12.8 points, and also finished third in rebounding.

    He was also the second-leading rebounder in 1992, when he averaged only nine points.

    Overall, Robinson is a fantastic Olympian, and was the best player on probably the second- or third-best basketball team ever.

4. Michael Jordan

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    Olympic Appearances: 1 (1992)

    Medals: 1x Gold ('92)

    In all fairness to the greatest basketball player ever to play the game, if we were counting previous years, then Jordan would be ranked No. 1 on this list.

    However, MJ's spectacular showing in 1984 does not count for this list.

    That leaves only his appearance for the '92 "Dream Team," where Air Jordan was the undisputed leader.

    He wasn't the leading scorer, but the attention of every defender was on the former Chicago Bulls great.

    His almost 15 points per game aren't a fair reflection of the GOAT, because he spent many minutes on the bench as his team blew out team after team after team.

    The best player on the best team, despite being in only one Games, is one of the great Olympians of all time.

3. Kobe Bryant

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    Olympic Appearances: 2 (2008, 2012)

    Medals 2x Gold ('08, '12)

    Kobe Bryant was selected in 2008 to be the face of the "Redeem Team" after the previous team had failed miserably in Athens.

    Bryant delivered, finishing third on the team with 15 points, but more importantly taking over down the stretch in the gold medal game against Spain.

    After his virtuoso performance in Beijing, the L.A. Lakers star returned in 2012 to help the red, white and blue to defend their crown.

    After a slow start, Kobe lit up Australia for 20 points, including four three-pointers in 75 seconds.

    He has been the best player on one gold medal team and a leader for a younger bunch of guys in 2012. He is clearly one of the best U.S. Basketball players on the national stage in history.

2. LeBron James

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    Olympic Appearances: 3 (2004, 2008, 2012)

    Medals: 2x Gold ('08, '12) 1x Bronze ('04)

    LeBron, coming off a fantastic rookie year, played sparingly on the disappointing 2004 team.

    However, in the two latter appearances, King James has been a star.

    In 2008, he, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant led a resurgent American team to the gold medal. En route, LeBron averaged 15 points, five rebounds and almost four assists per game.

    In 2012, to finish off a season in which the Miami Heat star won NBA MVP, the NBA Championship, and NBA Finals MVP, James captured a second Olympic gold, finishing third on the team in scoring and completing the first triple-double in USA basketball history.

    Many also claimed that he was the vocal leader of the most recent team.

    LeBron has one of the most filled-up Olympic resumes among American basketball players. He could make a serious argument for the top spot in these rankings.


1. Charles Barkley

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    Olympic Appearances: 2 (1992, 1996)

    Medals: 2x Gold ('92, '96)

    Charles Barkley is the all-time greatest Men's Olympic Basketball player. As a member of the heralded 1992 Dream Team, Sir Charles was the leading scorer at 18 PPG, and also accumulated the highest field-goal and three-point percentage.

    As a returnee four years later, Chuck was once again amongst his team's leading scorers, as well as one of the top rebounders and assist men.

    He in fact led the team in rebounds during the Atlanta Games.

    To be the leading scorer on the greatest basketball team ever is quite an accomplishment, and Barkley was one of the three best players on two great basketball teams.

    His achievements in Olympic basketball are unmatched.