Basketball has long been a global game, but the U.S. has always done it best. From Jordan to the Redeem Team, from beating the Soviet Union to the Dunk of Death, USA basketball has consistently flexed on the world. As we celebrate America’s birthday weekend (hopefully with a pickup game or ten) let’s look back at the Most Dominant USA Basketball Moments.
Beating Nigeria by 83 in 2012 Olympics
Not even the Dream Team accomplished something this ridiculous. In pool play during the 2012 Olympics the U.S. shattered the record for most points in a game when they beat Nigeria 156-73. Carmelo Anthony Anthony broke the U.S. single-game scoring record by dropping 37 points while going 10-12 from behind the arc. They scored 78 in the first half, and set U.S. records for 3-pointers (26), field goals (59) and field-goal percentage (71%). Nigeria wasn’t ready.
The Dunk of Death
This is the actual nickname for this dunk. French center Frederic Weis is listed at 7’2″ and Vince Carter leapt over him like he wasn’t even there, thus creating one of the greatest basketball hits on YouTube. There’s so much to love in this. Besides the jaw-dropping dunk, the French commentators are reduced to laughter over the absurdity of this slam, the fans captured behind the basket absolutely lose their minds, KG comes out of nowhere to deliver a chest bump so hard that it would have sent a normal person into orbit, and then Vincesanity gets right back into an over-the-top defensive stance.3 of 16
Embarrassing China in Beijing in 2008
The 2008 Olympics were a big deal in China. Between spending $40 billion dollars on the games and constructing a ridiculous stadium crafted to look like a birds nest, the pressure was on the home team to snag as many gold medals in as many events in possible. Their hoop dreams died the minute that Team USA took the court. America dominated en route to a 101-70 victory, Yao Ming only scored 13 points, and the U.S. eventually rolled to the gold medal.4 of 16
USA Beating the Soviets Twice in 1952
Before there was the Miracle on Ice, there was “what everyone expected to happen when the Soviets tried to play the U.S. in basketball.” With the Cold War just beginning the Soviet All-Star team couldn’t handle a team of U.S. amateurs in the 1952 games. The U.S. dominated in the first game 86-58, and then won the gold medal game 36-25, after the Soviets stalling tactics failed to work.5 of 16
63 straight wins
From 1936 to 1972 the U.S. team never lost in the Olympics. Ever. They went on a 36-year winning streak despite the fact that no NBA players could play in the Olympics. Doesn’t get more dominant than that.6 of 16
1956 Team USA Olympic Domination Against Thailand
Thailand didn’t win a game during the 1956 Olympics, which explains the 101-29 beat down from Team USA. The squad—lead by Bill Russell—beat their opponents by an average of 53.5 en route to the gold.7 of 16
The Redeem Team
The USA is expected to dominate in basketball, so it was a disappointment when the 2004 Olympic squad finished with a bronze medal. In 2008, American put together a squad newly recommitted to teamwork, headlined by LeBron James, who made gold a stated priority. The “Redeem Team” would defeat Spain in the gold medal game, putting the U.S. back on top.8 of 16
The 1996 Summer Olympics
The Summer Olympics haven’t returned to the United States since Team USA was destroying opponents by an average margin of 32 points in the ‘96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.The USA team—composed of names like Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Penny Hardaway, and more—went 5-0 and had a point differential of +177. Smells like domination.9 of 16
Charles Barkley Fights Through a 68 Point Victory
The Dream Team started it’s chase for the Gold in 1992 with an opening round match against Angola. The ‘92 American team would crush the Angolans by 68 points, but not before Charles Barkely crushed Herlander Coimbra in the chest with an intentional elbow. Team USA went on a 46-1 run in the first half that put this game to bed early, but Barkley was there to make sure this rout would never be forgotten. Not to mention, Barkley dropped this gem in pregame interviews. Never change Charles.10 of 16
The Greatest Game That Nobody Ever Saw
How good at basketball are we? So good that the infamous Dream Team scrimmage between Jordan and Magic’s teams was the toughest competition that the group faced in 1992. Michael Jordan teamed up with Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing. While Magic Johnson picked up Charles Barkely, John Stockton, Karl Malone, David Robinson and Clyde Drexler. The scrimmage was nicknamed, “The Greatest Game That Nobody Ever Saw” and has been detailed in the Dream Team novel. Jordan’s squad defeated Magic’s in a game that had all the emotions of a Game 7.
Charles Barkley vs. Brazil
Before Charles Barkley was talking crazy on TNT every Thursday, he was one of the more dominant big men of the 1990s. He was a member of the 1992 Dream Team that whopped through the entire Olympic field in Barcelona, and the highlight of his international career came against Brazil during group play. The Round Mound of Rebound dropped 30, hauled down eight boards and came away with four steals en route to a 127-83 USA win.12 of 16
Toni Kukoc’s life becomes a living Hell
In 1990, the Bulls drafted Toni Kukoc, perceived as Europe’s best player at the time. Thanks to jealousy, salaries and overall pettiness, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen took Kukoc’s addition as a personal slight. So when the Bulls pair got their first chance at Kukoc in the 1992 Barcelona Games, it went pretty much how you’d expect. The Americans held Kukoc to 2-of-11 shooting in the USA victory, making the trio’s eventual teaming-up in 1993 hella awkward.13 of 16
Cuban National Team Requesting a Group Photo Pregame
In case you couldn’t piece this together, the 1992 Dream Team was all-time legendary to everyone who had ever picked up a basketball. Yes, that included their opponents. And the Cuban national team had no qualms letting that be known. Most opposing countries’ players occasionally asked for autographs of the American legends, but Team Cuba members actually asked for a joint team photo to be taken at midcourt before the game.
32 Steals? 32 Steals.
The Dream Team made a habit out of embarrassing their opponents on the court, but against Croatia in the team’s first matchup of the Olympics, USA stole more shit than Lindsay Lohan in her prime. Michael Jordan racked up eight steals, Scottie Pippen came away with five while three Americans each accumulated four steals. In total, USA racked up 32 takeaways against Drazen Petrovic’s eventual silver-medalist Croatians.15 of 16
Bob Knight Rips Russia at LA Olympics
Before Coach Pop, the basketball world was #blessed with coach Bob Knight. Though he never went on to coach in the pros, the famed Indiana University head man led the national team during the ‘84 Olympics. In a way that only Coach Knight could pull off, he ripped into the Russian hoops squad, who didn’t make the trip to Los Angeles due to protest. “They can’t play defense. They couldn’t have beaten some of the teams in this tournament, and if you guys don’t know that, you’re not as smart as I think … And I don’t think you’re too smart, anyway.”
Would you like some Cold War with your sports?16 of 16