menu close twitter facebook snapchat instagram youtube article basketball gallery graph left-arrow right-arrow search star trophy video net clipboard shield-check shield-star stopwatch

Men's Teams

Aug 28, 2017 5:00 PM edt
USA 97 vs. PAN 56
USA Men's AmeriCup Team
AmeriCup 2017
Aug 29, 2017 7:30 PM edt
USA 74 vs. URU 66
USA Men's AmeriCup Team
AmeriCup 2017
Aug 30, 2017 5:00 PM edt
USA 72 vs. DOM 56
USA Men's AmeriCup Team
AmeriCup 2017

Men's Shop


Shop Now USA Basketball

Women's Teams

2017 USA Women's Teams Schedule
Jul 29, 2017 3:00 PM edt ESPN3
USA 73 vs. JPN 66
USA Women's U19 World Cup Team
2017 FIBA Women's U19 World Cup
Jul 30, 2017 3:00 PM edt ESPN3
USA 82 vs. RUS 86
USA Women's U19 World Cup Team
2017 FIBA Women's U19 World Cup - Gold Medal Game
Aug 12, 2017 3:00 PM edt
USA 78 vs. AUS 60
USA Women's U23 National Team
2017 U24 Four Nations Tournament
Aug 13, 2017 3:00 PM edt
USA 107 vs. CAN 61
USA Women's U23 National Team
2017 U24 Four Nations Tournament
Aug 15, 2017 3:00 PM edt
USA 103 vs. JPN 71
USA Women's U23 National Team
2017 U24 Four Nations Tournament

Women's Shop


Shop Now USA Basketball

By Jan Hubbard

If there is one basketball rule that has consistently befuddled the experts, it is the rule that led to the participation of NBA players in the Olympics. 

In 1988, the U.S. lost to the Soviet Union in the Olympic semifinal game in Seoul, South Korea, and had to settle for the bronze medal. About eight months later, the rules were changed and NBA players became eligible to play in international competition. So the assumption by a large segment of the media was that American basketball officials were angered by the loss, and thus decided to declare NBA players eligible so the U.S. could reclaim its rightful spot as the best basketball country in the world. 

That would seem to make sense - except that it is not true. When the U.S. team with college players lost in 1988, the only players who could not participate in international competition were NBA players. Brazil's brilliant scoring machine Oscar Schmidt was playing in Italy and earning a salary in the $500,000 per year range at the time. So were many others. 

To FIBA Secretary-General Boris Stankovic, the head of the organization that governs international basketball, that did not seem fair. So he decided a change was needed and he led the movement to change the rules. 

At the time, the NBA was not even a part of the organization that came to be known as USA Basketball, the governing body for basketball in the U.S. When the vote to change the rules was taken, in fact, the U.S. representatives voted against it. They were content for the U.S. to be represented by amateurs. 

Once the rules were changed, however, the NBA was invited to become a part of USA Basketball, and it was determined that NBA players would play in the Olympics and World Championships with college and other young players continuing to represent the U.S. in all other international competition. 

What is even less known, however, is that in 1986 - two years before Americans lost in '88 - the rules were nearly changed. Stankovic introduced the resolution for open play at a FIBA convention, and the vote to allow all professionals to play was 31-27. At the time, Stankovic said 18 or 19 countries abstained from voting, but if only five had changed and voted "yes," the resolution would have passed and the original Dream Team could have debuted in 1988 rather than 1992. 

The truth, however, is puzzling. Why would international executives who want to win gold medals change a system after they won a gold medal? 

"Two reasons," Stankovic said. "Our competition was closed to the NBA players, but no one else. That seems immoral. The second is very simple. Our feeling is that only by playing with the best players in the world can everyone else make progress. If you are from another country and you can run a race against Carl Lewis, maybe you don't have a chance. But you still want to run." 

We saw that in 1992. The Dream Team whacked everyone it played, but the international players were thrilled to be on the same court. The experience for them was the same that it was for the rest of the world. That team was not only unforgettable but also responsible for the enormous boost in popularity for basketball on a global basis. 

But the credit for that group getting the opportunity to play on the same team does not belong to anyone in the NBA or USA Basketball. It belongs to Boris Stankovic and his group of farsighted executives, who understood that the best way for basketball to grow globally was to put the greatest players on the world stage. 

About the Author: Jan Hubbard is a former editor of Hoop magazine. 


Related Content

Bob Cimmino


The 2017 USA Basketball New York Coach Academy - presented by Nike, will take place on Oct. 29 at Iona College in New York.

USAB placeholder Image

FIBA 3X3 WORLD CUP (23-2) 2017 DNC   2016 Bronze 5-2 2014 Gold 9-0 2012 Gold 9-0   FIBA U18 3X3 WORLD CUP (39-7) 2017 Gold 7-0 2016 Silver 5-2 2015 Silver 8-1 2013 Gold 8-1 2012 Gold 7-1 2011# *Bronze 4-2   FIBA AMERICAS U18 3x3 CHAMPIONSHIP (5-0) 2013 Gold 5-0 YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES...

USAB placeholder Image

A *Sheila Adams Foothills H.S. (CA) 1983 U.S. Olympic Fest. (W) 1-3 Silver Jane Albright-Dieterle Wisconsin 1996 R. William Jones Cup 9-0 Gold   Northern Illinois 1993 World Univ. Games 6-2 Bronze     1992 Junior World Champ. Qualifier 4-1 Silver James Anderson Narbonne H.S. (CA)...

Coach Licensing & Organization Accreditation Login

Forgot Password?