After shaking off a loss to Lithuania in group play and routing Italy in the quarterfinals, the United States was on the wrong end of a pair of close games in the medal rounds at the 2023 FIBA World Cup. On Friday, Team USA fell 113-111 to eventual champion Germany in a thrilling semifinal before Canada outlasted the U.S. 127-118 in overtime Sunday to win bronze.
With the final of the 2024 Paris Olympics a little more than 10 months away, Team USA can look forward to putting what will likely be a more star-studded roster on the court (including the likes of LeBron James perhaps?) Still, in order to win a fifth consecutive Olympic gold, USA Basketball leadership must learn from the painful lessons provided by three losses in this year's World Cup.
Let's break down the ugly numbers highlighting the U.S. shortcomings, as well as the history of the USA in the professional era, to better understand why this year's group fell short in the Philippines and how they can avoid a repeat with more eyes on them next year in Paris.
Star talent still wins
In the wake of the USA getting beaten in the 2004 Athens Olympics for the first time since NBA players were allowed to participate, there was briefly a movement for USA Basketball to focus on "fit" and pick more specialists rather than the ball-dominant stars who had made up previous teams.
Sure, there was a nod to this with the selection of Tayshaun Prince in 2008, but the "Redeem Team" and the 2012 sequel mostly overwhelmed opponents with sheer Hall of Fame talent. Performance in the previous NBA season remains a strong, though not perfect, predictor of USA Basketball success.