Men's Basketball Preview

Extending Team USA’s dominance in Olympic men’s basketball will not be an easy task at the Tokyo Games, now taking place in 2021, as basketball has grown into a global sport with elite NBA players now hailing from countries around the world.

The U.S. men are the No. 1 team in the world in the FIBA rankings, but No. 2 Spain won the most recent FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2019. And ahead of that tournament, No. 3 Australia ended Team USA’s 78-game unbeaten streak in an exhibition game in Melbourne. But in Olympic play, the U.S. men remain the gold standard.

The U.S. men have won six of the past seven Olympic gold medals, including three consecutively. Men’s Olympic basketball has been played since 1936, when the U.S. claimed the first of seven straight gold medals. In all, the U.S. men have earned a record 15 gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals in Olympic play. The U.S. men’s all-time win-loss record at the Olympic Games is 138-5 and they take a 25-game Olympic winning streak into Tokyo. The U.S. qualified for Tokyo by finishing as one of the top two teams from the Americas region at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

The U.S. list of Olympic finalists for the men’s team was announced in March 2021 and featured 57 NBA standouts. The official Olympic roster comprised of 12 players was announced on June 28, 2021. It features three Olympians with Kevin Durant leading the way in making his third appearance at the Games.

The Olympic men’s basketball tournament will consist of 12 nations. The U.S. will join host Japan, Argentina, Australia, France, Iran, Nigeria, Spain and four additional teams from FIBA's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. 

Updated on July 12, 2021. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

• For the first time since 2004, the U.S. men will have a new bench boss. Gregg Popovich, who was named a finalist and was among 66 players invited to try out for the 1972 U.S. Olympic basketball team, will lead this year's team in Tokyo. Now in his 25th season (1996-97 through 2020-21) as head coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, Popovich currently stands as the longest tenured active coach in both the NBA and in all U.S. major sports leagues. Popovich has led San Antonio to five NBA championships (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014) and is one of just five coaches in NBA history to win five or more NBA titles. 

• Tokyo will be the last international competition for longtime USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo. Colangelo’s involvement with USA Basketball began on April 27, 2005, when he was announced as the managing director of the then newly organized U.S. Men’s Senior National Basketball Team program — taking control of a national team program that hadn’t won a major international competition since 2000. Since Colangelo took charge of the national team, the U.S. men have compiled a 97-4 overall record (66-3 in official FIBA or FIBA Americas competitions and 31-1 record in exhibition games) and claimed top honors in six of eight FIBA or FIBA Americas competitions, including three Olympic gold medals. Olympic gold medalist Grant Hill will succeed Colangelo as managing director after Tokyo.

• Selecting a U.S. Olympic basketball roster from a star-studded pool of NBA players is always a challenge, but one that will be made more difficult this year due to the later-than-usual end to the NBA season. The NBA Finals could conclude as late as July 22 with the Olympic tournament set to commence an ocean away just three days later. Three players selected to the Olympic team — Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) — could face tight turnarounds to get to Tokyo.

• Kevin Durant, 32, has a World Cup win to his name in addition to two Olympic gold medals. The 2016 USA Basketball Co-Male Athlete of the Year, Durant is the top per-game scorer in U.S. history at the Olympic Games with an average of 19.4. Durant is an 11-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA champion.

• Team USA should be able to count on a defensive presence in Tokyo with 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. The 31-year-old forward returns to the Games having helped Team USA win gold in 2016. Green is a three-time All-Star with the Warriors and has recorded 30 career triple-doubles.

• Chicago Bulls guard Zach Lavine has been known as a scorer for some time but had a breakout season in 2020-21, averaging a career best 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. The 26-year-old also made his first All-Star team, having previously won the Slam Dunk Contest twice. Lavine is heading to his first Olympic Games.

• Damian Lillard, 31, is a six-time All-Star guard for the Portland Trail Blazers. The first-time Olympian averaged 28.8 points per game this past season, the sixth season in a row he has averaged 25 or more. In 2019-20, Lillard became the second player in NBA history after Wilt Chamberlain to score 60 points in a game three times in a season. 

• Jayson Tatum will be making his first Olympic team, but has USA Basketball experience at the youth level and also played on the 2019 World Cup team. Tatum has made the All-Star team the past two seasons with the Boston Celtics, and the 23-year-old forward set a Celtics record this year by scoring 60 points in a game.

• July 25, 2021: The United States plays its first game of the Olympic tournament against France in Group A
• July 28, 2021: U.S. vs Iran (Group A)
• July 31, 2021: U.S. vs Team TBD (Group A)
• August 3, 2021: Knockout round begins with quarterfinals
• August 7, 2021: Bronze- and gold-medal games