The foreign players turning out for teams in the USA are ready to confound expectations at Rio 2016
A record number of 47 active National Basketball Association players will participate at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The United States will have the most with 12 players, followed by Australia with six and Brazil and France with five each.
USA have dominated men’s basketball since NBA players were first allowed to participate at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games when the celebrated ‘Dream Team’ featured greats such as Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.
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In Barcelona, many of USA’s opponents were in awe of the team, and with good reason. Only six players on the other 11 teams combined had played in the NBA the previous season.
Now the internationalisation of the sport has benefited the NBA and the international game, according to Paulo Vilas Boas, the competition manager for basketball at Carioca Arena 1 at Rio 2016.
“A lot of countries have a different kind of game philosophy,” Vilas Boas said. “This has improved the NBA players, and on the other side, the NBA players improved the other countries. This kind of globalisation is the best of the best for the sport, for the Olympic Games and for the NBA.”
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Part of the legacy of the Dream Team was the global growth of the sport and of the NBA. In subsequent years, international players such as Yao Ming (China), Pau Gasol (Spain), Tony Parker (France) and others became NBA stars in their own right.
Vilas Boas played for Brazil against the Dream Team in the preliminary round in Barcelona, a game which the USA won 127-83.
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“We knew it was almost impossible to win the game but we wanted to compete with them, play hard with them, and show us and the world that we can play against the best of the best.”
The USA, Venezuela, Australia, China, Serbia and France are playing in group A. Croatia go into group B, joining Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Lithuania and Nigeria.
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The group phases will be played in a round-robin format (each team plays the other five in its group), with the top four teams in each group proceeding to the knock-out phase, which consists of quarter-finals, semi-finals, bronze medal games and gold medal games.
Carioca Arena 1 in Barra Olympic Park is the basketball venue for Rio 2016. The basketball competition will run for almost the entire duration of the Olympic Games, beginning on 6 August, the day after the opening ceremony, and finishing with the men’s podium deciders on 21 August, the day of the closing ceremony.