Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): Basketball Arena, Olympic Park, Stratford, London; North Greenwich Arena, Greenwich, London
Date Started: July 29, 2012
Date Finished: August 12, 2012
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to classification matches.
The United States has historically dominated the sport of basketball, but after the USA team placed third at the 2004 Olympics, it was obvious that the rest of the world was catching up. Although NBA players had been used at the Olympics since 1992, even with them it had become apparent that the USA could no longer show up with a team of NBA All-Stars and expect to waltz through the Olympics to a gold medal. USA Basketball responded by hiring Jerry Colangelo, a former NBA coach, to lead Team USA and Colangelo hired Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who instituted a team program concept. This worked with a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics and in 2010 the USA won the World Championships for only the second time ever. Led by NBA stars Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul, the USA was favored in London, but they knew that they could be beaten if they did not play well, as Spain, Russia, and Argentina had several NBA players on their teams.
But that never happened, although they were challenged. In group play the United States punished Nigeria 156-73, setting all sorts of Olympic records, including most points in a game, and margin of victory. But their next game was against Lithuania and this was close until late in the fourth quarter, before the USA pulled ahead to win 99-94. In the knock-out round, the United States easily defeated Australia and Argentina to reach the final against Spain. Spain had beaten Lithuania in the quarters and Russia in the semis.
The final was close throughout, with the USA pulling out to an early lead, only to see Spain come back in the second period and cut the lead to only one at the half, 59-58. It stayed that way after three quarters, but the US was too strong in the final few minutes and won the gold medal, 107-100. The bronze medal went to Russia, who defeated Argentina 81-77. Despite the history of top Russian basketball players, mainly when playing for the Soviet Union, this was the first Olympic medal in men’s basketball for Russia.