Olympic Basketball

Introduction Court and Teams Referees Play Offense
Defense Amateur Competition Professional Competition Olympic Basketball History
VII. Olympic Basketball
Every four years, the worldwide basketball community gathers for competition at the Olympic Games. Olympic play for men was first introduced as a demonstration sport (with no medal awarded) at the 1904 games in St. Louis, Missouri. The first official Olympic basketball tournament was held at the 1936 Games in Berlin, Germany. The 1936 contests were held outdoors in a tennis stadium on courts of clay and sand. The United States team won the Olympic gold medal that year, defeating the Canadian team by a score of 19-8 in the final round. The score was so low because the courts were soaked from rain, making it difficult for the players to maintain footing and to dribble. The United States dominated early Olympic basketball competition, winning the first seven gold medals. In 1972, however, the team from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) snapped the 62-game Olympic winning streak of the United States to capture the gold medal on a controversial basket at the buzzer. Subsequently, the United States remained strong, using teams of primarily college stars to win in 1976 and 1984. But teams from the USSR, which won in 1988, and Yugoslavia, which won in 1980 and finished second in 1976 and 1988, were also successful in Olympic competition. In 1992 professional players were first allowed to compete in the Olympics, and USA Basketball (the governing body of Olympic basketball in the United States) assembled a national team made up of the NBA’s best players. Known as the Dream Team, this squad overwhelmed its competition, winning the gold medal easily. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, the American professional players again dominated competition, and the United States took another gold medal. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, the United States also won gold but did not dominate play as thoroughly as before. Women’s Olympic basketball competition began at the 1976 Games in Montréal, Québec, Canada, with the Soviet team winning. The U.S. team captured its first gold medal at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. The success of the gold-medal-winning American squad at the 1996 Olympics generated increased interest in women’s basketball in the United States. All of the players from that squad went on to play in the ABL or WNBA. The United States repeated as gold medal champions at the 2000 Olympics. Other countries with successful traditions in Olympic women’s basketball include Australia, Brazil, China, and the former Yugoslavia. In addition to the Olympics, other international championships include the world championships, played every four years; the European championships, held annually; the championships at the Pan American Games, played every four years; and the Jones Cup, held annually for the top club teams from around the world.