A New Era of Team USA Basketball

Jacob Durbin

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That was Team USA Basketball’s record in all international competition between 2008-16. These were squads that consisted of the NBA’s premier talent; players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. Since NBA players were allowed to compete in international events, the United States have long been runaway favorites in every tournament and Olympics for the past two decades; the 2019 FIBA Cup and 2020 Olympics will be very different.

It would be an understatement to say that this year’s team has big shoes to fill. It would also be an understatement to say that the players on the 2019 roster is a ‘change of scenery”. With most of the NBA’s top talent opting to use their offseason to workout or rest, Team USA is in an unfamiliar place. While the players suiting up in the red, white, and blue this year are certainly talented, it’s clearly a far cry from the 90s Dream Team, the 2008 Redeem Team, or even the 2016 roster.

After starting the FIBA World Cup with an 88-67 win against Czech Republic, the US Men’s team escaped with a narrow 93-92 OT victory against Turkey. This win qualified the USA for the second round of the tournament; but the triumph came a little too close for comfort according to most. However, they broke out for a 98-49 blowout win against Japan. Despite this victory, many still have doubts concerning the team’s potential.

For the first time since the early 2000s, the USA is not manhandling the opposition. With other Top 10 NBA players such as Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo coming for the crown, Team USA is being backed into a corner. While the 2019 team is still headlined by established All-star talent such as Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton, it’s clear the Team USA roster in 2019 is a bit short on the talent side compared to past years. In addition to a whole new core of players, the team also has a new leader; Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

Despite Team USA’s talent still standing tall over most countries, they are definitely not the dominating force that they once were; and a FIBA Championship or Gold Medal is now anything but a guarantee. Other teams with excellent chemistry like Spain and France, along with the aforementioned Greece and Serbia led by Jokic and Giannis respectively, a less-talented and less-experienced Team USA has a tough task in front of them. Hopefully, they will rise to the challenge.

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