Cohen 8-Ball: Ranking U.S. Olympic Teams
July 22, 2013
Josh Cohen’s Analysis: With USA Basketball in the process of evaluating all the talent and deciding who will represent the country for the upcoming competitions in the next three years, I figured it was a good time to rank the U.S. Olympic teams between 1992 and 2012 (years with NBA players).
CLICK NEXT for my rankings and analysis.
#1 2008 in Beijing
ROSTER: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd, Michael Redd, Carlos Boozer & Tayshaun Prince
Cohen’s Analysis: Immense pressure, stiff competition and a defining purpose were central storylines at the 2008 Olympics for Team USA.
Remember, prior to reclaiming the gold, there was conviction by many that the rest of the world had “caught up” to the U.S. and that never again would they dominate like years past.
But with all that extra motivation and behind superb play from Kobe, LeBron, Wade and Carmelo, the U.S. crushed the competition (aside from a thriller in the finale against Spain) and captured the gold. They are now known as the “Redeem Team.”
Unlike many of the previous U.S. squads, most of the roster was in their “prime” and the oppositions, notably Spain, Argentina and Lithuania, were “stacked” with NBA talent.
#2 2012 in London
ROSTER: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tyson Chandler, James Harden, Andre Iguodala & Anthony Davis.
Cohen’s Analysis: After reestablishing its supremacy four years earlier, there was very little doubt that the U.S. would again win the gold. That presentiment proved precise as Team USA coasted to a second straight Olympic triumph.
While you could argue that the additions of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were significant enough to surpass the 2008 squad, the competition was slightly less taut in 2012.
Pau Gasol (Spain) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina), for instance, were past their prime and other NBA stars such as Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Yao Ming (China) and Andrew Bogut (Australia) were not participants in 2012 like they were in 2008.
#3 1992 in Barcelona
ROSTER: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler & Christian Laettner
Cohen’s Analysis: It’s just ridiculous that so many have proclaimed the 1992 U.S. Team as the greatest hoops squad every assembled. As a result of being the first ever Team USA to feature NBA talent and because of all the name power, some refuse to judge more recent teams objectively.
Let’s realize the facts: Bird had just retired from the NBA because of excruciating back problems; Magic hadn’t played in almost a year because of his unfortunate medical circumstances; there were barely any NBA players for the other countries (Toni Kukoc, Drazen Petrovic & Arvydas Sabonis were only notables), which highlights how inferior the competition was.
There is no denying they were a great team, but when you really analyze the facts, can we honestly and categorically crown the original “Dream Team” as the best U.S. Team ever?
#4 1996 in Atlanta
ROSTER: Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Penny Hardaway, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Grant Hill, John Stockton, Reggie Miller, Mitch Richmond & Gary Payton
Cohen’s Analysis: If you subtract Michael Jordan from the 1992 squad, you could definitely suggest that the ’96 team was more superior.
Like the ’92 team, Team USA flattened the competition and was never tested throughout the event.
Except for Barkley, you could argue that every returning player from four years earlier, including Malone, Robinson, Stockton and Pippen were closer to the center of their respective prime. And then the additions of Shaq, Olajuwon, Hill, Penny, Miller and Payton were substantial considering they all were perennial NBA All-Stars.
#5 2000 in Sydney
ROSTER: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Ray Allen, Vin Baker, Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Tim Hardaway, Allan Houston, Jason Kidd, Antonio McDyess, Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton & Steve Smith
Cohen’s Analysis: For a myriad of reasons, there was a substantial plunge in talent for Team USA by 2000. Many of the NBA’s best, including Shaq, Kobe, Iverson, Malone and Duncan, did not participate and the cast featured a slew of A- star players.
While they managed to capture another gold medal, it certainly was a roller coaster voyage. Against Lithuania in the semifinals, the U.S. team had to withstand an unforgettable 27-point performance from Sarunas Jasikevicious. Vince Carter’s go-ahead short baseline jumper with 31 seconds left saved the U.S. from a near defeat.
It wasn’t any easier in the finale against France, which surprisingly advanced to the gold medal game and played the U.S. as tough as anyone could have imagined.
#6 2004 in Athens
ROSTER: Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion, Lamar Odom, Carlos Boozer, Dwyane Wade, Richard Jefferson, LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony & Emeka Okafor
Cohen’s Analysis: It was apparent early on in the tournament that Team USA had taken a step back as the rest of the world was improving. They lost the opener to Puerto Rico, fell to Lithuania a few games in and were knocked out of gold medal contention with a stunning defeat to Argentina, which ultimately won the gold.
Like it was four years prior, many of the NBA’s elite chose not to participate and the U.S. were forced to compete with a plethora of B-level talent. LeBron, Wade & Melo were on the roster, but because they were so young and inexperienced, they did not earn much playing time.
This disappointment served as a wakeup call for Team USA, which obviously returned to dominance four years later.
Let’s now project who will be playing for Team USA in 2016. If I had to select the roster I would choose:
Guards: Chris Paul, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, and Damian Lillard
Forwards: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, and Paul George
Centers: Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond