A reason for reevaluation.
Just a few of the words and phrases that flooded the internet in the aftermath of USA Basketball’s seventh-place finish at the FIBA World Cup. It was the U.S.’s worst finish in a major international tournament, slipping below the humiliating sixth-place Team USA picked up at the World Championships in 2002, widely viewed as rock bottom for the pro version of the U.S. squad.
So: Has Team USA hit a new low?
“You can’t compare the two years,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo told SI.com. “It’s apples and oranges.”
It is. Of course it is. In 2002, the idea of playing for USA Basketball had lost all of its sizzle. The group that had signed on played selfishly, bricked an astonishing number of free throws and was led by a coach, George Karl, not known for his ability to unite a locker room.
It’s not USA fanboying to submit that this team was snakebitten. The World Cup is a big deal internationally. In the U.S., it barely registers. The timing was awful. This was the first World Cup held a year before the Olympics, according to Colangelo. A tournament that wraps two weeks before NBA training camps open? Top stars—especially ones with Olympic gold medals in their pockets—weren’t going for that.