Team USA has struggled to get off to the races in their friendly games so far. The world juggernauts in basketball have found themselves on the losing end of their two friendly games. Gregg Popovich's team will have to fix what's wrong before they jet off to Tokyo in search of their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
But where do these losses rank among their worst? Team USA rarely loses, so anytime they do suffer a defeat, it is of great significance. With that in mind, here are the 10 most shocking defeats in USA Basketball history.
10. Spain vs. USA 81-75 (2002 FIBA World Championship)
This game would rank higher on the list if it weren't for the fact that both these teams knew the game was not win-or-go-home, and they had safe passage to the next round. But still, seeding is supremely important in FIBA tournaments, so Spain and USA went to war with each other. The US went into half-time with a lead. But in the fourth quarter, Team USA blew a 13-point lead and allowed Spain to get the win over them. However, both teams would end up being eliminated in their respective games in the next round.
9. Lithuania vs. USA 94-90 (2004 Olympic Games)
To fans of Lithuania, this was a hugely satisfying victory. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Lithuania came agonizingly close to defeating Team USA, missing a crucial game-winner. This time around, they had the chance to take on Team USA in the group stage. In a team that held future superstars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade, along with several legends such as Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson. The obvious absentees were Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett, who didn't make the trip to Athens. Lithuania would end up getting a huge win over them, but Team USA would get the final word when they beat Lithuania in the Bronze medal game.
8. Puerto Rico vs. USA 92-73 (2004 Olympic Games)
This loss is the biggest in terms of points. Team USA entered the Olympics in Athens having not lost a game since the 1988 Olympics. Since that time, we had seen NBA stars enter the fray to participate in the Olympic games. But this time around, it looked like the team was stretched out a little thin. In their opening fixture against Puerto Rico, they suffered a blowout loss after coming into the tournament as favorites. Losing by a margin of 19 points, it is one of Team USA's biggest losses in competitive basketball.
7. Argentina vs. USA 87-80 (2002 FIBA World Championship)
This game was the end of a historic 58-game winning streak for Team USA in international tournaments. Playing against a rising Argentina squad, Team USA wasn't able to get going. This game served to be the first glimpse for several fans to a young Argentine player named Manu Ginobili. Ginobili was set to enter the NBA after the tournament and gave Spurs fans something to be excited about even in a loss for their country. But the real story is how dominant Argentina was in the game, taking the lead early and never letting it go to see out the win over the favorites.
6. Serbia vs. USA 94-89 (2019 FIBA World Championship)
One of the more recent losses for Team USA, this came at their last major international tournament. Playing against a strong Serbian team led by Nikola Jokic, Team USA found moments where they were able to find some rhythm. But, Serbia was just better on the day, and Jokic had an excellent performance. This was their second consecutive loss in the tournament, with the previous one being ahead on this list.
5. France vs. USA 89-79 (2019 FIBA World Championship)
Well, this is the other side of Team USA's FIBA 2019 coin. Before they lost to Serbia, the French decided to take it to the US in this game. Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, and the rest of France broke yet another 58-game winning streak for Team USA. This loss ended up being the catalyst for the US, as they proceeded to lose to Serbia and then crash out of the tournament once again.
4. Nigeria vs. USA 90-87 (Exhibition 2021)
The most recent loss for Team USA on this list, and perhaps one of the most surprising. Given the star power at hand for Gregg Popovich, the loss wasn't expected at all. Players like Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum, among other NBA stars took the court while still being relatively fresh. Many of these players had some playoff experience this season before arriving at the camp. But for some reason, whether it be the short turnaround or lack of chemistry, team USA couldn't defeat Nigeria. What this means for the Olympic hopes, only time will tell.
3. Greece vs. USA 101 - 95 (2006 FIBA World Championship)
This was the first tournament for Team USA with legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski as the leader. And he had some major superstars playing for him like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade (who was fresh off of winning an NBA championship with Miami), and Dwight Howard in the squad. But they weren't able to overcome the Greeks during the tournament. What made their loss even more shocking was that Greece had zero NBA players on their team. An absolute upset to say the least, and it sent Team USA back home.
2. Yugoslavia vs. USA 81-78 (2002 FIBA World Championship)
For Team USA, losing seemed impossible For a team that boasted the likes of Reggie Miller, Jermaine O'Neal, Paul Pierce, and Ben Wallace, they looked like the favorites. Add to that they were playing on home court. But Yugoslavia had stars in their own right. Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic led the Yugoslavia team to victory over USA in their own backyard. While the margin of points wasn't close, the significance of this win can't be understated.
1. Argentina vs. USA 89-81 (2004 Olympic Games)
Once again, Manu Ginobili and his Argentina squad shu down Team USA. He would face off against a man whom he would go on to win three NBA championships with Tim Duncan. Duncan struggled with fouls during the game and wasn't able to register too many minutes. Whereas Argentina were able to get the taxing win over the prohibitive favorites.
These losses changed the course of Team USA basketball in recent history. And with their consecutive exhibition losses, this will remind Team USA that upsets can happen at anytime, and they can't take their Olympic success over the last three tournaments for granted.