On Sep. 11, Team USA basketball suffered a devastating defeat against the French national team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Losing 79-89, the US national team saw one of its worst performances in team history, failing to advance past the quarterfinals. This loss broke Team USA’s streak of 58 straight wins in the international competition with NBA players on the roster and was the first time since 2002 that the team placed without a medal. Looking forward to the 2020 Summer Olympics, the team hopes to reclaim its position as one of the top basketball teams in the world.
While many factors contributed to Team USA’s loss, a primary reason was a lack of commitment from star NBA players. All-Star players such as James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, and Damian Lillard all declined invitations to join the team. Citing reasons such as an increased risk of injury or a need for time off from basketball, much of the top talent in the NBA decided to not participate in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Additionally, injury plagued the players who did decide to commit to the team. For example, Jayson Tatum and Kyle Kuzma both suffered ankle injuries that kept them out of the competition. These key losses forced the team to play backup players such as Mason Plumlee.
Looking ahead to the 2020 Summer Olympics, it is also important to recognize how international talent is also on the rise. While international basketball tournaments were previously dominated by NBA players who simply played for the US National Team, the emergence of international stars in the NBA has stiffened the competition. For example, Rudy Gobert, All-Star center and Defensive Player of the Year, was the face of the French national team that defeated Team USA. Other star NBA players such as Nikola Jokic and former MVP Giannis Antetokumpo played for teams outside of the US. Additionally, team chemistry appears to be an area for improvement for Team USA. While other teams have many more veteran players, Team USA rostered many young rookies who had little experience playing in international tournaments.
Hopefully, more American players will represent their home country for the 2020 Summer Games. The likes of LeBron James and Anothony Davis have verbally announced that they would be interested in playing for the team in Japan. Even with strong talent coming back to the roster, Team USA will have to fight hard to re-establish themselves as the top team in an increasingly tough international pool.