The Glory Days of yesteryear when Team USA Men's Basketball could roll out of bed to win gold are over. The 1992 Dream Team devolved into the 2008 Redeem Team rather quickly, and that is the position that the USAMNT is in again now as we approach the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Following Team USA’s disappointing performance in the FIBA World Cup, Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar LeBron James is “ready to commit” to a Redeem Team Relaunch in the 2024 Olympics.
Team USA lost to Lithuania, Germany, and finally Canada en route to a fourth-place finish in the 2023 FIBA standings. Led by former Boston Celtics Dennis Schroder and Daniel Theis, Germany edged Team USA 113-111 in the semifinals, advancing to play Bogdan Bogdanovic’s Serbia squad. Germany defeated Serbia 83-77 to clinch the gold medal, fueled by Schroder’s game-high 28 points.
Team USA didn’t bounce back well enough against the Canadians in the bronze-medal game, despite some late dramatic heroism from the Americans.
Canada defeated the United States 127-118 in OT to secure its first-ever medal at FIBA, behind a record-setting performance by new Houston Rocket Dillon Brooks. Brooks scored 39 points, the most points ever scored in a medal-winning game in FIBA tournament history. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also scored 31 points for Canada, the World’s No. 15 ranked team.
Team USA has its work cut out for it in Paris, and King James is in full-blown recruitment mode, looking to make the basketball equivalent of a French Connection. James won a bronze medal in Athens 2004, following that up with gold twice (2008, Beijing and 2012, London). Team USA went undefeated in the 2012 games in London, with James, Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Carmelo Anthony headlining the wrecking crew.
James has not played in the Olympics since that flawless 2012 run in London, and likely sees the Paris games as a sort of last dance opportunity for several aging superstars.
According to The Athletic, James has already received some level of commitment from Lakers’ teammate Anthony Davis, the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, Suns’ star Kevin Durant, and Celtics’ sharpshooter Jayson Tatum. Curry is a key component here, and he has never played in any Olympic games to date. A gold medal is the one magical item missing from Curry’s iron-clad Hall of Fame resume.
Other big names in the mix are Durant’s teammate Devin Booker (Suns), James’ former running mate Kyrie Irving (Mavericks), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), and De’Aaron Fox (Kings). This proposed relaunch of the Redeem Team is shaping up to be devastatingly talented, and represents Team USA’s best chance to leave Paris with a medal.
High-impact players like Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves), Austin Reaves (Lakers), and Mikal Bridges (Nets) led the charge for Team USA in the 2023 FIBA tournament, but it wasn’t sufficient to supplant the soundly fundamental European teams that are literally becoming the gold standard in national tournaments. Even Canada must be taken very seriously now. Team USA is no longer able to operate on cruise control with a B-team.
Edwards, for example, played very well in the tournament and was named an All-Star by FIBA, but in order to compete with the rest of the world Team USA must evolve.
Team USA needs to have a terrifying starting five and then the type of depth that makes their opponent’s knees buckle. The talent is available and James has offered a rallying cry. The next step is to make it official and get these winning chips stacked on the court.