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21 Things to Look Out For in 2021

  • Date:
    Jan 11, 2021

It’s an Olympic year – again! The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are set to take place July 23-Aug. 8, 2021. With 2020 in the rearview, USA Basketball looks onward and upward in what it hopes to be a healthy, golden year for basketball. Here are marquee events on the USA Basketball 2021 calendar and notables to keep your eyes on: 

  1. The Dynasty: The U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team goes for a seventh-consecutive gold medal, which has never been done before in women’s Olympic Team sport history. That is 24 (actually 25) straight years of Olympic gold medals. 
  2. Herstory: Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi look to join Teresa Edwards as USA Basketball’s only five-time Olympians. If Bird & Taurasi win a gold medal with the U.S., it would be their fifth consecutive gold – a feat that has never been achieved by an American and placing them among an elite group of athletes – currently totaling four – who have won five or more gold medals in the same event.
  3. An Olympic debut is in store for the world’s fastest game of hoops – 3x3. The games are 10 minutes long, the shot clock is 12 seconds and scoring is tallied by 1s and 2s until a team reaches 21, or whichever team is winning after 10 minutes. Sixteen teams (eight per gender) will compete in the inaugural Olympic 3x3 tournament. It will be physical, intense and unlike anything you see at your local park. Be sure to catch some 3x3 action – from its outdoor urban venue – starting on July 24.
  4. Both the men’s and women’s USA 3x3 squads gear up for the 3x3 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament to take place May 26-30 in Graz, Austria. Twenty men’s and 20 women’s teams coming from 36 different countries will compete for the six tickets (three per gender) to Tokyo. It is expected that the USA men will be represented by Canyon BarryRobbie HummelDominique Jones and Kareem Maddox, while the USA women have an all-WNBA roster comprised of Napheesa CollierStefanie DolsonAllisha Gray and Kelsey Plum.
  5. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley is set to make her Olympic head coaching debut. She will join Anne Donovan and Pat Summitt as the only members of a U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team to participate in a games as an athlete and a head coach. Coach Staley is 99-4 all-time in leading USA Basketball teams, including 23-0 coaching USA National Teams. As a player on USA teams she compiled a 196-10 overall record (.951).
  6. If the San Antonio Spurs are unable to make a deep NBA Playoff run, all indications are that USA Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Popovich will make his Olympic head coaching debut in Tokyo. Popovich has reaffirmed his commitment to coaching the Tokyo Games, despite the complexities. Popovich led the USA Men’s World Cup Team to a 6-2 finish in 2019, was an assistant coach for the 2004 bronze medal-winning Olympic team and was among 66 players invited to try out for the 1972 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team.
  7. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021 will be announced in April. Former USA Basketball president Val Ackerman(2005-08) and two-time Olympic gold medalist Yolanda Griffith (2000, 2004) are first-time nominees. Members of the USA Basketball family, including Jennifer AzziChauncey BillupsChris BoshSwin CashJay Wright and others, also are on the ballot.
  8. The USA women will defend their FIBA AmeriCup title from 2019 ahead of the Olympic Games. The 2021 AmeriCup will take place June 20-27. The 2019 USA team featured mostly new faces with a couple national team veterans, but with the timeline leading up to the games influenced by the WNBA season, it is unknown who will be available for the title defense. 
  9. The U.S. Open Basketball Championships. USA Basketball’s U.S. Open Basketball Championships help bring structure, authenticity, standards and quality to the club team environment in a fun, competitive and safe setting. In 2019, 120 teams took part, including more than 1,200 athletes and 200 coaches, representing 28 states and Canada. Look for the tournament, which includes divisions for 12U, 13U, 9th and 10thgrade athletes, to return bigger and better in 2021.
  10. The USA Men’s AmeriCup Qualifying Team will look to build on its 4-0 record. With two wins in Indianapolis in Nov. 2020, the USA men clinched a berth in the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup to defend the USA’s title won in 2017. However, the U.S. will still compete in the final window of qualifying games versus Bahamas and Mexico in February to close it out. 
  11. Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu made her USA Women’s National Team debut in an intrasquad Red-White exhibition on Sept. 5, 2018, and followed it up by playing in the U.S. versus Canada exhibition game on Sept. 8, 2018 – both while she was a student-athlete for the University of Oregon. She’s yet to appear on a USA Basketball national team as a professional, but could that change soon? 
  12. LeBron James. The Los Angeles Lakers will be in full NBA title defense mode come summertime, but it would be impossible not to hope for a King James USA Basketball reunion after he rested in 2016. If James gives Tokyo a go, he would join Carmelo Anthony as the only four-time Olympians on the USA men’s side. James currently is third on the men’s U.S. Olympic all-time leaderboard in points, rebounds and steals, while he is first all-time in assists. 
  13. New Olympic guards? It’s no secret the USA Women’s National Team has been bolstered by an experienced, elite backcourt. And that may not change heading into the Tokyo Games, but for the first time in a long time, it seems like it could. Lindsay Whalen retired following the 2016 Games, and Maya Moore has stepped away from basketball. Could we see an emergence of recent USA National Team athletes Layshia ClarendonDiamond DeShields, Chelsea GraySkylar Diggins-SmithJewell Loyd or Kelsey Plum? Or, even younger with Ariel Atkins or Arike Ogunbowale? There’s plenty to choose from.
  14. Steph Curry. Curry will be 33 years old in March and still without an Olympic Games on his resume. Curry won gold with the USA Men’s World Cup Teams in 2010 and 2014 but had to withdraw from consideration for the 2016 Olympics. If Golden State is unable to make a deep NBA Playoff run, could we finally see Curry at the games?
  15. USA Men and Women’s U19 World Cup Teams eye the U19 thrones again. After both USA U19 teams did not claim gold in 2017, the 2019 squads found redemption. In 2021, they will seek the highest junior national team trophy again, but rosters may be somewhat unfamiliar with international play as athletes missed the U17 and U18 windows in 2020. The men’s U19 team is scheduled to play in July 2021 and the women in August 2021. 
  16. USA Basketball jumps into EsportsUSA Basketball launched its first-ever gaming team in Novembe 2020 – the USA E-National Team – which captured the FIBA Esports Open II North and Central America Conference championship with a 7-1 overall record in December. The USA Team included Wendi Fleming, aka ALittleLady87, the first female to compete in a FIBA Esports Open. With the global success of the FIBA Esports Opens, fingers are crossed for additional USA E-Team competition opportunities in 2021. 
  17. USA Men’s and Women’s U16 National Teams in FIBA Americas action. Since the U16 teams’ inception in 2009, the men hold a 31-0 record and the women are 30-1. The majority of future USA stars are not born on the U16 stage, but there’s no doubting how cool it is to reflect back on those who do reach the top. Look out for the U16 teams in June 2021.
  18. Red Bull USA Basketball 3X Nationals. A thrilling 2019 Red Bull USA Basketball 3X Nationals in Las Vegas helped produce the 2019 FIBA 3x3 Men’s World Cup gold medal-winning team. The tournament has served as the USA’s 3x3 trials for previous international events and is crucial to identifying the country’s top 3x3 talent in a competitive format. It’s hopeful the Red Bull USA Basketball 3X Nationals will return in 2021 and continue to grow the sport.
  19. Former USA Men’s Select Team members pushing for U.S. Olympic Team roles. Each cycle, a focus is placed on selection of a USA Select Team, a group of players that prepare and compete against the USA National Team training camp roster. Many of those once on a select team tend to reappear on a national team roster later in their careers. The 2012 USA Select Team had five members make the 2016 Olympic Team in DeMarcus CousinsDeMar DeRozanPaul GeorgeKyrie Irvingand Klay Thompson. Notable 2016 USA Select Teamers include Devin BookerBrandon IngramZach LaVineVictor OladipoMarcus Smartand Myles Turner – the last two of which played on the 2019 USA World Cup Team. 
  20. Growth of USA Basketball virtual opportunities.  While COVID-19 prevented many of USA Basketball’s youth initiatives from being held in person, it led to USA Basketball launching its successful Virtual Skills Camps. The virtual camps, hosted by Pro Skills Basketball, were introduced in October 2020 and continued into December. Six camps are set for January to March 2021 and will again provide opportunities for fun and skills development while keeping participants safe.
  21. Olympic Opening Ceremony. We repeat – the date is Friday, July 23. It will be an elite day on USA Basketball’s social media platforms.

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