Yesterday, the Team USA women’s basketball squad announced its full 12 for next month’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, and the men’s roster, while yet to be finalized, is taking shape.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, and in some cases, the need for extended rest, many of the top American basketball players are headed overseas for a chance at gold. The men have won gold in three consecutive Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016), and the women’s run of excellence stretches all the way out to 1992, the last time they finished anything but first. (Shoutout to The Unified Team.)
Per the WNBA’s release, the Team USA women’s basketball team that will attempt to claim consecutive gold medal No. 7 is as follows:
G. Ariel Atkins (Washington Mystics)
G. Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
C. Tina Charles (Washington Mystics)
G/F. Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx)
G. Skylar Diggins-Smith (Phoenix Mercury)
C. Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
G. Chelsea Gray (Las Vegas Aces)
C. Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
G. Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm)
F/C. Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
G. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
F. A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces)
Head Coach: Dawn Staley, University of South Carolina
Assistant Coach: Dan Hughes
Assistant Coach: Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx
Assistant Coach: Jennifer Rizzotti, Connecticut Sun
Lloyd, Wilson, Taurasi, Bird, Stewart, Griner, and Charles are all returnees from the 2016 gold medal-winning crew. Taurasi and Bird, who were the two youngest members of Team USA’s 2004 squad, are each going for their fifth gold medal. Five gold medals would break the individual record for hoops, currently set at four by Bird and Taurasi, along with Lisa Leslie, Teresa Edwards, and Tamika Catchings. Edwards, who also has a bronze from the 1992 team, is the only player, man or woman, to have five medals in basketball. Carmelo Anthony is the only man to have three gold medals in basketball history and is one of three — along with the Soviet Union’s Gennadi Volnov and Sergei Belov — to medal four times.
This year’s men’s squad has received 11 high-profile commitments from the NBA, which are as follows, per several reports from Adrian Wojnarowski, among others:
F/C. Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)
G. Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
G. Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
F. Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)
F/C. Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
G. James Harden (Brooklyn Nets)
G. Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks)
G. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
F/C. Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F. Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
F. Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Head Coach: Gregg Popovich
The men’s roster construction is more wait-and-see. Paul had been dealing with COVID protocol, but is at least said to be symptom-free. Harden suffered a Grade 2 hamstring injury, which he played through in Games 5-7 of the Brooklyn Nets’ semifinal loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, albeit poorly. Durant looked tired as hell following his elimination in Game 7. And Paul and Booker are still actually playing in the playoffs. It’s possible that they reach, if not win the NBA Finals, putting their Olympic hopes in jeopardy because of overlap. The Finals will end in mid-to-late July, with a Game 7, in needed, played on July 22, while Team USA’s first game in Tokyo would be July 25 vs. France. Reportedly, this will not deter Booker, however, as he plans to play regardless.
On the individual accolades front, Durant needs 26 points to pass Melo as the all-time leading scorer for men’s USA basketball, which he might get in that first game, even in limited minutes,. He also currently averages the most points per game in club history in the Olympics at 19.4. KD and Green are the only returnees from the 2016 team. Harden, and Love, along with Durant, go back to the 2012 roster. A Durant gold medal would also give him three, tying Melo for the men’s record, assuming he isn’t a late entry, which is unlikely. Kyle Lowry is reportedly still considering joining Team USA, which would be his second straight Olympics following the 2016 run.
As usual, the expectations with Team USA are gold or bust, and if these squads remain healthy, that won’t change, even in this odd year.