Team USA just won their 16th Gold medal, a spectacular achievement in international basketball. The USA is by far the most successful country in basketball, as the next most successful country is the Soviet Union with 2 Gold medals while the only other countries to ever win Gold are Argentina (2004) and Yugoslavia (1980).
The dominance of the USA in international basketball is truly incredible, and this year was probably the most difficult one for Team USA to win. The 2004 loss in Greece was frustrating for the USA, but the roster was missing Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal - the two best players in the game. This year, Team USA suffered embarrassing losses in exhibition matches and even a loss against France in the group stages. But the team recovered, going undefeated the rest of the way and securing Gold thanks to an 87-82 victory led by Kevin Durant’s brilliance.
Throughout history, certain players have stood out as the most impactful for Team USA. Kevin Durant was spectacular yet again in the Olympics, but does his 3rd medal give him the edge over other all-time legends such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and Charles Barkley? Here are the 10 greatest players who have ever played for Team USA.
10. Dwyane Wade
Stats For Team USA: 13.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Medals: 2008 Gold in Olympics, 2004 Bronze in Olympics, 2006 Bronze in World Cup
Dwyane Wade won the Gold in 2008 after an intense final showdown with Spain, as that was the highest mark of Wade’s career as an Olympian. Throughout his career in international play, Wade held a 36-5 record which was good for a spectacular 87.8% winning percentage. Wade brought his lane-penetration and lockdown defense as one of the best players on the team and never disappointed.
The 2004 loss in Athens might stick in Wade’s memory, but the roster was not up to par with key stars such as Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal missing. Not to mention, LeBron James was only 19 years old and the team suffered a lack of team chemistry. Nonetheless, Wade always played superstar basketball for his country and kicks off the list of top-10 players in Team USA history.
9. Oscar Roberston
Stats For Team USA: 16.8 PPG
Medals: 1960 Gold in Olympics, 1959 Gold in Pan American Games
Oscar Robertson only has one Gold medal to his name, but how he did it was truly legendary. Leading a group of older guys and captaining his country, Robertson was unstoppable by averaging 17 PPG and blowing out teams by an average margin of over 40 points per game!
A transcended player during his time, Robertson was the best triple-double threat on the floor every night as a 6’5” point guard. His scoring and playmaking were essential as he was the undisputed best player on the floor during the 1960 Olympics where he brought the Gold home.
8. David Robinson
Stats For Team USA: 12.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.8 BPG
Medals: 2x Gold in Olympics, 1988 Bronze in Olympics, 1986 Gold in World Championships, 1987 Silver in Pan American Games, 1992 Gold in FIBA FIBA Americas Championships
The Admiral was one of the best two-way centers in NBA history, and his play continued whenever he suited up for international competition. Robinson is currently ranked 4th all-time in points scored in the Olympics (270) with an average of 11.3 PPG. The Hall of Famer played in 3 Olympic Games, winning Gold twice as the best center on the floor in 1992 and 1996.
Robinson’s sheer strength was a factor in Team USA’s ability to bang with opposing bigs, and his passing out the post and inside scoring allowed his team to play inside and out. Playing in squads that featured Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon, it was Robinson that was the most consistent for his country.
7. Scottie Pippen
Stats For Team USA: 9.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Medals: 2x Gold in Olympics, 1992 Gold in FIBA Americas Championship
Mainly remembered for his exploits in winning 6 NBA championships alongside Michael Jordan in Chicago, Scottie Pippen is easily one of the greatest players in international history. The defensive wing won Gold twice in the Olympics, locking up dominant European players including Toni Kukoc, and playing his best for his country.
Pippen and Michael Jordan brought their chemistry in Chicago into the Olympic Games, headlining the Dream Team while Pippen led the team in assists per game. Scottie Pippen often gets undermined in all-time rankings because he played under Michael Jordan’s shadow in the NBA, but he was a gifted player whenever he suited up for Team USA.
6. Charles Barkley
Stats For Team USA: 13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Medals: 2x Gold in Olympics, 1992 Gold FIBA Americas Championship
Nobody questions Charles Barkley’s Hall of Fame credentials, because he is one of the greatest power forwards in the history of the game. But his brute style of play was perfect for international play, which is why he holds 2 Gold medals in the Olympics. Playing for the “Dream Team” and making a name for yourself was not easy, because winners such as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were on the roster alongside legends in Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
But Barkley led the Dream Team in scoring at 18.0 PPG, a feat which is incredible because fans might have considered some other names first. Barkley was able to handle the physicality of the international games and was a force on both ends of the court. Perhaps nothing stands out more than when Barkley elbowed an Angola player to receive a technical foul that made headlines, indicating that he was putting everything on the line for the Gold medal.
5. Carmelo Anthony
Stats For Team USA: 14.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Medals: 3x Gold in Olympics, 2004 Bronze in Olympics, 2006 Bronze World Championship, 2007 Gold Americas Championship
The 10-time NBA All-Star represented the United States at four Olympics Games, winning three gold medals and one bronze. Anthony always seemed to play his best when he suited up for his country and took the role as a primary scorer with his heart. Despite playing with other great players, Anthony always showed up.
Carmelo Anthony leads all Team USA players in career Olympic games (31) and rebounds (125) and is second in points (336) and three-pointers (57). Anthony’s most memorable performance came against Nigeria in 2012 when he knocked down an American record- 10 three-pointers in London.
4. Kobe Bryant
Stats For Team USA: 13.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Medals: 2x Gold in Olympics, 2007 Gold FIBA Americas Championship
The great shooting guard was a fantastic servant for Team USA, winning 2 Gold medals in the Olympics and Gold in the FIBA Americas Championship. Bryant proved his clutch gene when he took over the 4th quarter of the Gold medal match against Spain in 2008, scoring 13 points and dishing out 2 assists.
Spain had cut the Team USA lead to 2 points with 8:13 remaining in the quarter. The onslaught ensued, with Bryant proving his ability as the best player in the game and putting Spain away once and for all. While Michael Jordan’s Dream Team will always be the greatest assemble of players ever, Kobe’s version in 2008 (and later in 2012 with a rampant Kevin Durant) was a beautiful one to watch.
3. LeBron James
Stats For Team USA: 14.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Medals: 2x Gold in Olympics, 2004 Bronze in Olympics, 2006 Bronze in FIBA, 2007 Gold FIBA Americas Championship
LeBron’s name always appears on every all-time list because of his incredible talents and longevity. The King is a basketball machine, always showing up and showing out for his team and country, and ranks 3rd all-time in the greatest players in Team USA history. James ranks 3rd in total points scored (273) with an average of 11.4 PPG.
James has 2 Gold medals in the Olympic Games and won a Gold in the FIBA Americas as well. Playing 5 different international championships is truly impressive and LeBron was always one of the best players in the tournament. The King headlined the iconic 2012 Team which featured mega-stars in Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant among others.
2. Michael Jordan
Stats For Team USA: 16.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Medals: 2x Gold in Olympics, 1992 Gold in Tournament of Americas, 1983 Gold in Pan American Games
Anytime Michael Jordan’s name comes up, winning is always associated. Jordan is a renowned winner with 6 championships and 6 Finals MVPs, without ever losing in an NBA Finals. Quite fittingly, Jordan never lost any international competition he played in either. The greatest NBA player ever won the Gold medal twice in the Olympics, averaging 16.0 PPG and ranking 5th all-time in point scored (256).
Jordan is mainly known for leading out the iconic “Dream Team” which featured major Hall of Famers including Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, and David Robinson. Jordan (and Pippen) were dominant in 1992 by destroying the opposition and combining for 34 points and 12 assists in the Gold medal game.
1. Kevin Durant
Stats For Team USA: 18.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Medals: 3x Gold in Olympics, 2010 Gold in World Cup
Kevin Durant has solidified himself as the greatest player in Team USA history. He won his 3rd Gold medal on Friday night and did it as the best player on the floor. Without Durant on Team USA’s squad in Japan, it would have been a very disappointing year for his country. Durant has been spectacular for 3 straight Olympics, averaging a career 19.7 PPG for his country in that tournament.
Durant is the highest scorer in Team USA’s history, surpassing Carmelo Anthony this year with 435 points. It will be hard for any player to catch Durant who now has 4 Gold medals in international competitions. Durant’s scoring has transcended international basketball and he is the greatest to have ever done it.