It won’t surprise me if the U.S.A. loses this year. The rest of the world has been making great strides in basketball for some time now. The NBA is filled with great foreign players, and most of them are EAGER to play for their home countries in the Olympics (unlike the Americans, who’d rather be almost anywhere else).
Look at this in historical terms. In 1956, the American college players, led by Bill Russell, SLAUGHTERED the rest of the world in the Olympics. They won the gold without breaking a sweat. But just 16 years later (not a long time, in the grand scheme of things), the Russians won the gold. Yes, yes, I KNOW the Russians were the beneficiaries of some horrible officiating, but the fact remains, by 1972, they’d closed the gap almost completely.
Now, the original NBA “Dream Team” slaughtered the rest of the world in 1992. I predicted at the time that in a similar time, about 16 years, some other country would have a strong enough basketball team to knock us off. It looks like it MAY happen a little sooner than I thought. I STILL think the U.S. should win this time, but there’s no way around it: another country WILL win gold in basketball in the not-too-distant future.
Is the “solution” to send American college players? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING? That’s a silly idea! The days when American collegians could compete with the world’s best players are long gone! A team of college all-stars couldn’t hope to contend for a bronze medal.
Actually, in my opinion, basketball shouldn’t be an Olympic sport at all. Neither should hockey, or tennis, or baseball, or soccer, or ANY sport in which there are already events FAR more prestigious than the Olympics. An Olympic medal in tennis will NEVER mean as much as a WImbledon title. A gold medal in baseball will NEVER mean as much as a World Series ring. Brazilians yawn at Olympic soccer, knowing that the World Cup is the only event that really matters. And NOBODY would trade an NBA title for an Olympic gold medal in basketball.
I’d scrap Olympic basketball entirely. But since that won’t ever happen, I’d say we should get used to seeing foreign teams win the basketball gold regularly… or until enough of the best American players care enough to play and to take the Olympics seriously.