In 2004, the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team lost its Olympic opener to Puerto Rico. Team USA struggled through the tournament and wound up with a bronze medal. It was the culmination of a steady 12-year decline in U.S. men’s Olympic basketball.
The 1992 Dream Team had given the U.S. a dominating gold medal with the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. By 2004, Team USA was in disarray.
Then came the Redeem Team.
Phoenix Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo was brought in to oversee USA Basketball after the disaster in Athens in 2004. Colangelo worked hard to make sure that the best of the best in the U.S. were on the 2008 Olympic team. For years, many of the NBA’s best had been skipping international competitions.
It was Kobe Bryant that pulled it all together. Bryant even suited up for the 2007 FIBA Americas Championships, a qualifying tournament considered a warmup for the Olympics the following year.
Along with Bryant, the NBA stars lined up to make sure Team USA brought back a gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympic games in Beijing. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Jason Kidd, and Carmelo Anthony were all in their prime and committed to the cause.
In Beijing, the U.S. got off to a quick start. The Americans went 5-0 in Group play and won each game by 20 or more points. In tournament play, Team USA pounded Australia (116-85), crushed Argentina (101-81), and then faced its only test in the gold medal final.
Bryant would score 13 fourth-quarter points to lead the U.S. to a 118-107 victory over Spain, a team with a number of current and soon-to-be NBA players. The 2008 men’s Olympic basketball team brought the gold medal back to the U.S. earning the nickname, the Redeem Team.