An oral history of the U.S. men's basketball team at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the subsequent restructuring of USA Basketball:
Part I: 24-0
24-0. That was the Olympic record of USA Basketball from 1992 – the year of the Dream Team, when NBA players were first allowed to play internationally – through the 2000 Sydney Games. There’s not much that’s perfect in this world, but for three straight Olympics, America’s best ballers came damn close.
Led by the likes of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Jason Kidd, Team USA boasted the greatest collection of Olympians any team sport has ever known. Every four years, USA Basketball would throw together its version of the Monstars, seemingly otherworldly beings unleashed to wreak havoc on the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, basketball was growing internationally, slowly but surely churning out NBA-level talent. Players like Serbia’s Vlade Divac and Lithuania’s Arvydas Sabonis were among the first to blaze the trail, as countries around the globe were incubating talent designed to take down the mighty Americans. At some point the United States had to lose, but when?
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