Amid the self-proclaimed comparisons to the 1992 “Dream Team”, a side that boasted eleven future NBA Hall of Famers, notably the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, one vital fact seems to be consistently overlooked; the 2012 United States Men’s National Basketball Team is yet to play a competitive game. With the Olympic Games kicking off this weekend in London, Team USA looks to validate the hype and bring a record fourteenth gold medal back to the States.
This Olympic tournament however is likely to pose much more of a challenge to Team USA than their 1992 Dream Team counterparts encountered. Since those Olympic Games in Barcelona twenty years ago, the global aptitude for basketball has increased exponentially due to the likes of international superstars Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, and Manu Ginobili making their marks in the National Basketball Association, the world’s elite basketball league.
Despite the increases in both quantity and quality of competition, the American fans expect nothing less then a gold medal from Team USA. When you consider the United States teams hold an all-time record of 122 wins and 5 losses at the Olympic games, it is easy to see why expectations are so high for this talented group of athletes.
Team USA will be sporting some of the NBA’s most prolific talent in its efforts to repeat their 2008 gold medal run. All-time greats and sure fire future hall of famers Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, arguably the two greatest players in the world today, will be joined by rookie phenom Anthony Davis and nine other perennial All-Stars; Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams. The United States talent isn’t limited to NBA championship rings and on court prowess; coach Mike Krzyzewski has won eight gold medals from the bench and boasts 927 career wins as a collegiate coach. With accolades like this, it is no wonder that Team USA is the odds on favorite to win gold in London.
Team USA begins their campaign on Sunday, July 29 against Group A rivals France. The Olympic tournament consists of twelve teams split into two groups of six, with the top four teams from each group advancing to the quarterfinals, where the remaining eight sides will compete to make to the semifinals and the opportunity to win a medal.
The two winning semifinal teams will then meet in the gold medal game on Sunday, August 11. The number two rated team in the world behind the United States, Spain, lead by brothers Pau and Marc Gasol, anchors a bottom heavy Group B, potentially setting up a highly anticipated USA vs. Spain gold medal rematch from 2008. It’s worth noting that Team USA racked up a twenty-two point victory over the Spanish in their final exhibition tune-up on July 24.
Although the Olympics are a time for international harmony and patriotism, this 2012 campaign is all business for Team USA- it is gold medal or bust for these superstars. This team knows that if the court of public opinion is going to justify comparisons to the ’92 Dream Team, they are going to have to win, and win big. We’ve heard them talk the biggest game around, now it’s finally time for Team USA to back it up on the court in their effort to make history and bring the gold medal back across the Atlantic Ocean like their predecessors Jordan, Johnson and Bird did ten years ago.
Image Courtesy of USA Basketball