Americans expect to win gold medals in every international basketball competition, like it’s our birthright.
When US men fall short – As Team USA did against Germany in the 2023 FIBA World Cup semifinals – leads to tough questions, a bit of soul-searching, and a chance for some to climb a soapbox and rails about the failings of America’s basketball system.
However, the answer in this case is a little more obvious: America’s best players chose the Paris Olympics over the World Cup.
This statement must be accompanied by a context. In this case, the U.S. loss on Friday is the culmination of several things that have led to gold medals in two of the past six World Cups. USA head coach Steve Kerr is up to one point after the USA’s defeat on Friday.
“The game has gone global in the last 30 years. These games are difficult,” Kerr said. “It’s not 1992 anymore. The players are better all over the world. The teams are better. It’s not easy to win the World Cup or the Olympics.”
This is undoubtedly true, the world has come to it. That’s why when the U.S. sends its “B” team to a tournament — as it did for Manila for the World Cup — it’s a toss-up whether they win gold or not. That’s not to say there’s no talent on this roster, there certainly is, but there’s not an All-NBA player, not a player who’s already been on the senior men’s national team for a major tournament.
This is partly because FIBA, in its “infinite” wisdom, puts the World Cup and Olympic summers back-to-back. The world’s best players — those who expect to play for their clubs in May and June — will essentially play two full years without a lengthy recovery break if they play in both international events.
The best players have to choose between the World Cup and the Olympics.
They chose Paris.
Stephen Curry. Jayson Tatum. Anthony Davis or Bam Adebayo – Two large, versatile, defensive devices that the US could really use. Kevin Durant. Joel Embiid (who can play for USA, France or Cameroon). Devin Booker. Damian Lillard. Donovan Mitchell. Jaylen Brown. Zach LaVine. a healthy one Zion Williamson. Jero holidays. Ja Morant. James Lebron (Though whether he wants to pursue a third gold medal at age 39 is a fair question.)
None of those players were members of Team USA’s roster. Each has expressed interest in playing in Paris or could await a call from US men’s national team coach Grant Hill.
It’s not just the United States. After a deep playoff run for nuggets, Nikola Jokic Didn’t play for Serbia (they’re doing fine without him and going to the gold medal game) and didn’t play either. Jamal Mori Suits for Canada A number of other top players also sat out.
It must be emphasized that the roster that the United States sent to Manila had real talent and was capable of winning gold. Still, there was no margin for error, and the best teams in the world and those that took advantage of the U.S.’s weakness in the paint — Lithuania and Germany — did just that.
Some of the players on this year’s roster will be in France next summer. Anthony Edwards certainly earned a spot. Mikal bridgesTwo-way game Tyrese Halliburtonpasses and Josh HartFor example, elegance can put them on the list of Paris. Cade Cunningham He was a standout on the select team at the USA training camp and if has a strong season for him Pistons He can receive an invitation.
However, there is another level of American talent, and those guys took Paris to the World Cup.
Also, expect Hill and Kerr to consider a few different roles for the U.S. for the Olympics — how much it does. Kwon Looney Have they helped on glass in Manila? will be Alex Caruso Fill a defensive role on the 12-man roster? There are other players who aren’t All-Stars but could contribute to the U.S. Olympic roster in certain ways.
The U.S. results at the World Cup — they play Canada on Sunday for the bronze medal — aren’t a sign that U.S. basketball is failing. This is not an unmitigated disaster.
This is the new reality of basketball around the world. The world has come a long way, and if we don’t send our best, it’s 50/50 that the Americans take home the gold. This time everything did not break our way.