Ranking Every USA Men's Basketball Team at the Olympics Since 2000

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2021

Ranking Every USA Men's Basketball Team at the Olympics Since 2000

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    Kobe Bryant
    Kobe BryantDusan Vranic/Associated Press

    It wasn't always a glamorous run, but the United States men's basketball team earned gold at the Tokyo Olympics thanks to an 87-82 victory over France.

    So, the big question: Where does this squad fit when compared to past versions of Team USA?

    Determining the answer can involve any number of paths, but we're focusing on recent history. The rosters consideredsix in totaldate back to the 2000 Sydney Games. Neither the 1992 Dream Team nor the 1996 redux are included in order to keep the focus on the latest generation of Team USA.

    While the order is subjective, considerations are group-stage performance, average margin of victoryparticularly in the knockout roundand the medal that was won.

6. Athens Olympics (2004)

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    MICHAEL CONROY/Associated Press

    Relative to any other country in the basketball world, a bronze medal would be somewhere in the range of incredible and acceptable. For the United States, it was a failure.

    Talent wasn't the problem. The roster had Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan, versatile wings Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom and rising stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. Yet from the very beginning in Athens, the team struggled.

    Puerto Rico rolled to a 92-73 victory in the opener, and the U.S. basically just survived host Greece (77-71) and Australia (89-79) before Lithuania handed the Americans a second loss—the first time the United States had ever dropped two games in a single Olympics.

    Following a 102-94 quarterfinal win over Spain, the U.S. fell to Argentina 89-81 in the semifinals. Team USA then managed a 104-96 win over Lithuania in the bronze-medal game.

    Since the Dream Team stood atop the podium in 1992, Athens is the only Olympics in which the U.S. men didn't win gold.

5. Tokyo Olympics (2021)

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    Kevin Durant
    Kevin DurantEric Gay/Associated Press

    Several iterations of Team USA have rolled over its competition, which set and sustained a remarkably high Olympic bar. And the Tokyo squad simply could not live up to that.

    But it still celebrated a gold.

    In the opener of pool play, the U.S. fell to France 83-76. While the team cruised past Iran (120-66) and the Czech Republic (119-84), the early loss sparked doubts of what Team USA would accomplish in Japan. The uneasiness lingered into the knockout stage.

    Spain built an early 10-point lead in the quarterfinals, and Australia jumped out to a 15-point advantage during the semis. However, the Kevin Durant-led Americans found an answer to win both games relatively comfortably and reach the final.

    To win gold, the U.S. clawed out an 87-82 victory over France. Durant scored 29-plus points for the third straight gold-medal game, securing his place as the greatest men's player in U.S. history.

    In addition to Durant, Team USA leaned on Jrue Holiday, Jayson Tatum, Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine, Devin Booker and Bam Adebayo.

4. Sydney Olympics (2000)

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    Gold medal? Check.

    And the 2000 Sydney Olympics also had that Vince Carter dunk.

    Remembered as the Dunk of DeathCarter leaped over France's 7'2" center Frederic Weis in the final game of the preliminary round. While the dunk highlighted Team USA's undefeated run to gold, the journey had a few challenges.

    Pool play included comfortable wins over China, Italy and New Zealand, but the U.S. had closer games against Lithuania (85-76) and France (106-94). After defeating Russia in the quarterfinals, the Americans narrowly avoided an enormous upset at the hands of Lithuania. Sarunas Jasikevicius missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, and the U.S. won 85-83.

    "If the ball went in, it would have haunted us for the rest of our lives," U.S. guard Ray Allen said at the time.

    Carter and Allen both scored 13 points in an 85-75 victory over France to secure Team USA's third straight gold medal. Kevin Garnett, Alonzo Mourning, Allan Houston, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton were also key players on this roster.

3. Rio Olympics (2016)

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    During the 2016 Rio Games, the Golden State Warriorsno, Team USA celebrated yet another gold medal.

    Kevin Durant, who signed with the Warriors that summer, propelled the United States. New teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green flanked Durant on the roster, which also featured Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

    But the 8-0 record didn't come easy.

    After cruising past China and Venezuela, the U.S. outlasted Australia (98-88), Serbia (94-91) and France (100-97). Team USA smacked Argentina 105-78 in the quarterfinals, but Spain hung around into the fourth quarter and pushed the Americans to an 82-76 semifinal.

    Fortunately for supporters of the Red, White and Blue, the drama subsided there. Durant scored 30 points for the second straight gold-medal game, leading the U.S. to a 96-66 drubbing of Serbia.

2. London Olympics (2012)

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    In 2008, the Redeem Team faced the pressure of atoning for 2004's letdown. The 2012 squad simply aimed for gold.

    As in Beijing, the Americans finished 8-0 with a pretty dominant run. Beyond a 99-94 group-stage win against Lithuania and a 107-100 victory over Spain in the gold-medal game, the U.S. smashed the other six opponents by 26-plus points.

    When the U.S. overwhelmed Nigeria 156-73 in pool play, two records fell. The team set an Olympic mark for single-game points, and Carmelo Anthony scored a USA-record 37 points.

    While burying 129 three-pointers in eight games, the U.S. averaged 115.1 points—narrowly missing the Dream Team's record of 117.3.

    Durant, Melo, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant led this bucket-getting powerhouse of a roster in London. Kevin Love, Deron Williams and Chris Paul held major roles, too.

1. Beijing Olympics (2008)

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    Dusan Vranic/Associated Press

    Not only did Team USA take bronze at the 2004 Athens Games, it happened again at the 2006 FIBA World Cup. That followed an embarrassing sixth-place finish at the 2002 World Cup on home soil. The grip on international basketball seemed to be loosening.

    Enter, the Redeem Team.

    Kobe Bryant made his Olympic debut alongside near-prime superstars Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Chris Paul to create a juggernaut. Team USA averaged 106.3 points and surrendered just 78.4 per game.

    In the first seven contests, no opponent stayed within 20 points. The U.S. sealed the gold with a 118-107 triumph over Spain.

    The Redeem Team removed any doubt that the United States was the premier international force in men's basketball.