Here’s 25 times when Team USA was challenged in international basketball (since 2000)

2004 USA Team basketball olympics fat carmelo

It’s been over 24 years since The Dream Team mopped the floor with the competition in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Not only did they defeat the teams, but the starstruck opponents posed for group photos before and after the game, shook their hands during free throws and we’re in general awe of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.

The team would cruise to the Gold Medal with not one timeout being called the entire tournament. The Dream Team’s smallest margin of victory? A 32 point win in the Gold Medal game against Croatia.

But hey guess what everyone — it’s not 1992 anymore! And hasn’t been since…. well, 1992. So why do some American fans still assume that USA basketball will trample their opponents in international competition every two years?

Much less, why are they still shocked when an international team gives them a run for their money like Australia, Serbia and France have in this year’s Olympics?

Outside of the 2014 team, every US team that has featured NBA players since the 1996 team has been challenged. Though it was more common for Team USA to win by 30 points, there has been at least once or twice (and sometimes three times) when the USA’s margin of victory would be much much closer than that. Here are the 25 times in the last 20 years where Team USA won by 11 points or fewer (or lost):

GAMES FEWER THAN 11 POINTS (SORTABLE)
USA Team Event Opponent Final Score Margin
2016 Olympics France 100-97 3
2016 Olympics Serbia 94-91 3
2016 Olympics Australia 98-88 10
2012 Olympics Spain 107-100 7
2012 Olympics Lithuania 99-94 5
2010 World Cup Russia 89-79 10
2010 World Cup Brazil 70-68 2
2008 Olympics Spain 118-107 11
2006 World Cup Greece 95-101 -6
2006 World Cup Italy 94-85 9
2006 World Cup Puerto Rico 111-100 11
2004 Olympics Lithuania 104-96 8
2004 Olympics Argentina 81-89 -8
2004 Olympics Spain 102-94 8
2004 Olympics Lithuania 90-94 -4
2004 Olympics Australia 89-79 10
2004 Olympics Greece 77-71 6
2004 Olympics Puerto Rico 73-92 -19
2002 World Cup Spain 75-81 6
2002 World Cup Puerto Rico 84-74 10
2002 World Cup Yugoslavia 76-81 -5
2002 World Cup Argentina 80-87 -8
2000 Olympics France 85-75 10
2000 Olympics Lithuania 85-83 2
2000 Olympics Lithuania 85-76 9

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Since 2000, Team USA has lost six games in international competition. And 17 times when they won by 11 or fewer points. Just 12 years after The Dream Team, the 2004 US Olympic Team was a hot mess. The team led by Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan, along with a very young LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, lost three times to Puerto Rico, Lithuania and Argentina. Not just that, four of their wins were hard-fought battles where the margin was just 6, 8, 8 and 10 (Greece, Spain, Lithuania and Australia respectively).

Collectively, Lithuania, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico and Greece have consistently battled the United States, and defeated them on a handful of times in World Cups and Olympic Games. The roster of international clubs that have a chip on their shoulder and can give the Americans more than expected is growing each year.

As fans of the NBA and American basketball, we need to update our mindset; that this isn’t 1992 and the United States isn’t the only global basketball superpower anymore. The wake up call happened in 2004. Team USA had this epiphany after the 2006 Olympics and revamped their selection process and took a hard look at their basketball ego. It’s time for us fans to follow suit.

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