In 2008, the United States put together the “Redeem Team,” one made up of NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant. The team was to bring back the spirit, and quality of play, of the original 1992 Dream Team that featured the likes of Michael Jordan. The Redeem Team won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics and started a 58-game international tournament win streak. That streak ended this week. It also ended U.S. domination in the sport.
When Team USA was knocked out of the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup by France, it really wasn’t an upset. In fact, it could have been predicted. Team USA, minus stars that declined to play in this year’s tournament, lost an exhibition game to Australia, a team that wound up in the semifinals of the FIBA World Cup.
The loss to France shouldn’t be all that surprising. The French team sports five NBA players including the defending Defensive Player of Year in Rudy Gobert. The U.S. then dropped a consolation round game to Serbia another team with five NBA players and a few more on the roster that will likely end up there.
When you consider that Team USA’s “star” was Jayson Tatum or maybe Harrison Barnes, you might have recognized that they were in trouble from the get-go. The result was a seventh-place finish thanks to an 87-74 win over Poland on Saturday. It was the worst finish for the U.S. in 45 appearances in major international tournaments.
Spain will take on Argentina for this year’s FIBA World Cup gold medal. The U.S. had won the last two gold medals. Team USA will continue to face difficulties in building a roster for World Cup play. With the decision to move this year’s tournament, it means that the World Cup and Olympics are now in back-to-back years. With NBA franchises concerned with the number of minutes their stars are playing, seeing the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard in red, white, and blue at the next World Cup is slim. Regardless, the result of this year’s FIBA World Cup will force Team USA basketball to reconsider its strategy moving forward. Will star NBA players decide to play for Team USA in the future? Time will tell.