2008 Redeem Team posing with their gold medals after winning the Olympics.
Historically, international basketball competitions have been dominated by the U.S., winning gold in seven of the last eight Olympic games. International basketball has never had the same success as other sports like soccer; however, with the recent uptick in international star power in the NBA, questions are beginning to rise about the USA’s title as the best basketball nation in the world.
This year, the U.S. lost to Canada in the third-place game, finishing the tournament in fourth place. While the roster consisted of star power players like Jalen Brunson and Anthony Edwards, there were notable omissions of USA Basketball's most talented and tenured players: Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum, Damian Lillard, and more. NBA stars are already burdened with a long schedule, and the premise of beating up on poor teams with little incentive does not entice players, but redemption does.
After losing the 2004 Olympics to Argentina and Manu Ginobili, the U.S. returned in 2008 with arguably their best team ever. The team featured all the league's best, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard headlining the star-studded roster. Coined the ‘Redeem Team’ they ran through the 2008 competition and took home gold. In a similar phenomenon, Donovan Mitchell-led Team USA lost in the quarterfinals of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The next year, Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, and Devin Booker led the USA to the Olympic Gold, redeeming the previous year’s failure.
It appears this well-documented trend is going to repeat itself in next year's Olympics. The biggest stars in the world will now have the motivation to represent their country again, and the Olympics have always been a bigger draw than the FIBA World Cup. According to esteemed NBA insider Shams Charania, Lebron James has expressed genuine interest in playing in the 2024 Olympics. Generally, where Lebron goes, the rest of the league follows. For example, according to Patrick Beverley, the NBA bubble in 2020 being agreed on by the players was very reliant on the decision of Lebron James.
Even if the U.S. comes out with a reboot of the 2008 redemption team, their experience in the Olympics will be far from a cake walk. NBA Stars are featured on international teams like France’s Rudy Gobert, Canada’s Shai Gigleous Alexander, Serbia’s Nikola Jokic, Slovenia’s Luka Doncic, Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Cameroon’s Pascal Siakam, and Germany’s Dennis Shroeder. Smaller countries, such as many Balkans and Slavic countries, have the advantage of having played together the majority of their lives, building invaluable team chemistry. Finally, the Olympics follow many of the FIBA basketball rules which benefit players that are used to them, such as players in the Euroleague. Although talent cannot be beat, it will be interesting to see how the 2024 Summer Olympics turn out.