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Basketball at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games

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Host City: Barcelona, Spain
Date Started: July 26, 1992
Date Finished: August 8, 1992
Events: 2

Participants: 236 (142 men and 94 women) from 15 countries
Youngest Participant: ITA Elena Paparazzo (19 years, 81 days)
Oldest Participant: VEN Sam Shepherd (39 years, 97 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 71 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): USA United States (2 medals)


The big news in 1992 was that professionals were now allowed to compete and the United States, upset with their 1988 bronze medal and fearing that they were losing their grip as the dominant basketball nation, entered an NBA All-Star team. Called the “Dream Team,” and featuring [Michael Jordan], [Magic Johnson], [Larry Bird], [Patrick Ewing], [Karl Malone], [Charles Barkley], and [David Robinson], it is usually acclaimed as the greatest team ever assembled.

The 1992 basketball events were held at the Palacio Municipal de Deportes de Badalona in Badalona, a suburb of Barcelona. The arena was built specifically for the 1992 Olympics, and is still used for basketball competition, as well as music concerts and other municipal events.

The format for the men’s tournament was the same as in 1984 with two six-team groups, played in a round-robin format, with the top four teams in each group advancing to the knock-out phase, starting with quarter-finals. The 12-team field was selected as follows – host nation Spain; four teams from the Americas Qualifying Tournament (United States, Venezuela, Brazil, Puerto Rico); four teams from the European Qualifying Tournament (Lithuania, Croatia, Unified Team, Germany); the 1991 Asian Champion (China); the 1991 Oceanian Champion (Australia); and the 1992 African Champion (Angola). Other notable changes since 1988 were that the Soviet Union no longer existed, although its avatar, the Unified Team, competed in Barcelona; Lithuania and Croatia were now basketball powers after the break-up of the Soviets and Yugoslavia; Yugoslavia could not compete in 1992 because of United Nations’ sanctions; and Germany now competed as a unified nation.

In the end it mattered little given the make-up of the American team, defeating Lithuania in the semi-finals by 51 points and Croatia in the final by 32 points. The American Dream Team was so popular that some of the other teams actually asked to pose for pictures with the players, prior to playing them. If only selfies had been around in 1992.

Eight women’s teams competed again, as in 1988, with the same format, with two four-team groups playing round-robins to advance two teams from each group to the semi-finals. The eight teams were selected as follows – host nation Spain; defending champion and 1990 World Champion United States; and the top five teams from the World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (China, Unified Team, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Italy). Yugoslavia also qualified as the runner-up at the 1990 World Championship, but they were not eligible because of the UN sanctions against the country, and were replaced by Cuba, third at the 1990 Worlds.

The United States had by 1992 become the dominant nation in women’s basketball, but they were upset in the semi-finals by the Unified Team, who went on to win the gold medal over China, with the USA winning only a bronze medal.