Host City: Sydney, Australia
Venue(s): Sydney SuperDome, Olympic Park, Sydney, New South Wales; The Dome and Exhibition Complex, Olympic Park, Sydney, New South Wales
Date Started: September 17, 2000
Date Finished: October 1, 2000
Format: Round-robin pools advanced teams to classification matches.
In 1998, Yugoslavia won the World Championship, with the United States finishing third. Although it would appear that the rest of the world had caught up to the USA in men’s basketball, the USA team at the Athens Worlds consisted of lesser-known pros. The US again chose an NBA All-Star team to represent them in Sydney and it was expected that they would again win easily. Among European teams, there was no consensus favorite to overtake the Americans. At the 1998 Worlds, Russia had won the silver medal, while the podiums had been mounted at the 1997 Europeans by Yugoslavia, Italy and Russia, but in 1999, Italy won the European Championship, with Spain second, and Yugoslavia third. Lithuania had finished no better than fifth at those preliminary international contests.
The US opened the Sydney tournament with two easy wins over China and Italy. But then they faced Lithuania and won by only 85-76. However, the US was undefeated in Group A and went to the quarter-finals, where they handily defeated Russia, 85-70. The semi-finals saw a re-match against Lithuania, and the myth of American basketball dominance would finally end – probably forever.
Lithuania did not win. But with 1:36 left in the game, former University of Maryland player Šarūnas Jasikevičius sank two free throws to give Lithuania an 80-79 lead. The USA responded and pulled ahead 84-81. But Jasikevičius sank a short jump shot with a bit over 9 seconds left, to cut the lead to one point. Lithuania fouled Jason Kidd, who hit one free throw but missed the second. Jasikevičius then came downcourt and launched a 22-foot 3-point attempt, going for the win. It missed, and the USA won, 85-83.
In the final, the US took an early lead against France. But midway thru the second half, France also laughed in the face of American hoops dominance, and cut the lead to four points with just over four minutes. The American team responded, however, and won 85-75, finishing the tournament undefeated and winning another gold medal. But things were no longer the same in international basketball.