USA Basketball Shares Team Members Favorite Olympics Memories
Whether you are an athlete or not, the Olympics have provided fans and participants alike with a plethora of memorable moments.
With the Tokyo Olympics set to open in less than a week, USAB.com reached out to current and past USA Basketball athletes, coaches and staff for some of their most memorable Olympic memories.
Here is a look at their most memorable moments from the Olympics:
Mike Krzyzewski, 2008, 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic Team head coach and 1992 U.S. Olympic Team assistant coach
It was an honor to coach the United States National team for 11 years, so many memories. I want to tell you about two of them, one on the court and one off the court. The one on the court occurred during the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the gold medal game. Timeout, fourth quarter, just over 8 minutes to go, two-point lead and Spain was making a run on us. It’s the most pressure I have ever felt in my life as a basketball coach. During that timeout Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, my team of all stars who became one, were magnificent. They looked at each other and said, ‘it’s our time.’ We didn’t draw up a play, we just said, ‘this is what we’ve practiced for.’ And when they went out, they executed beautifully in the greatest moment of pressure. I think all of them will remember that moment. I know I will remember it forever, and we beat Spain (118-107) to win the gold medal.
The second moment occurred just about a half hour after that - the gold medal ceremony. Only the players – in fact I get chills thinking of it and visualizing it. Our team is there along with two other teams but we’re (standing on the medal podium) above them, majestically looking, gold medals around our necks, and as the gold medal were finally finished, our national anthem was played, and our flag was raised above all the others. To look at our team with their hands over their hearts and their eyes on the flag was the moment that I will remember most about being the national team coach. It really is the result that we trained for and that we will continue to train for so future teams and future coaches will be able to experience that majestic moment.
David Robinson, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic medalist
My favorite Olympic memory is standing on the podium with the Dream Team accepting our gold medals. We felt the gravity of the moment, and we were proud of achieving our goal. Looking back on how that experienced changed basketball worldwide, I’m proud to have been a part of such a special team.
Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball Men’s National Team Managing Director 2005-present
My favorite moment was when we were being awarded the gold medals, “The Star Spangled Banner” was being played, the flag was being lifted in Beijing, China after we had beaten Spain in the gold medal game. Very few people have an opportunity to build something, create a culture, have a game plan, and see it perfectly executed and get the desired result, and that’s what took place. So that moment was as good as it gets. And to add some whipped cream to the whole moment, when the game was over, Coach K and I hugged and he kissed me on the cheek – that doesn’t happen very often either.
Sue Bird, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist
I guess they say you never forget your first, so I think Athens (2004) will always have a special place. But the truth is, we’ve obviously been lucky in a way to always come home with a gold medal, always come home with a good taste in our mouths. So, a lot of my memories have nothing to do with basketball. It’s a lot of the time we get to spend off of the court, with our teammates, with our families. That’s where a lot of my memories live and that’s what I’ll take with me from all the games, to be honest. But like I said, you never forget your first.
Teresa Edwards, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympic medalist
I’ve got so many (Olympic memories)! But I do think ’96 (Atlanta Olympics), regardless of how it was for me, I do think if I had to play one (Olympics) again I’m going with that ’96 team. I’m watching young girls become women. I’m watching the game just change to – I’m not even watching it change, I’m a part of the change. I can’t even tell you what it feels like to be part of it. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of change. And to me, before Atlanta it was, just keep women’s basketball alive. It was the love of my life.
Before ’96 I didn’t realize the power of what we actually held in our hands to just be a force in women’s basketball in America. Most of my professional career had been overseas, and all I ever dreamed of was being in America and just having that platform and being able to evolve. Women were evolving. You‘ve got to remember we were evolving in all the sports - softball I think was added to the Olympics, gymnastics was on top, of course soccer was doing their thing. We lived it so profoundly that we didn’t know we were part of that change. Then when you look back it’s like, wow, look where we are.
If I had to do any Olympics again it would definitely have to be Atlanta and all the memories from the trials, to the yearlong training, to the traveling abroad, to the tour we did here domestically as well, and giving young girls an opportunity to watch professionals on that international stage. The Olympic team and the national team just gave us a new found appreciation for what we do, and how we do it and how we represented – which I thought back then we knew exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it in a classy manner without even being told. I think that’s what made the 1996 team so very special, that everyone on that team just had a certain amount of standards about themselves that it came together for us. Effort, attitude - those are some things that coaches didn’t have to coach. You just didn’t have to coach effort and attitude. You just had to put that talent together and watch it gel and come together like chemistry.
I had one of my greatest games against Australia (20 points and a record 15 assists) in one of the biggest games, and I had enough experience to know that it‘s just not a game where we’re going to lose. Tree (Katrina McClain) and I had already experienced that for us, and we weren’t going back there. When we played Australia in? to get to Brazil it was just a whole nother level. I just found out so much about myself,. I never knew how strong I could be when I was truly tested, because before then I was playing like a kid in a candy store, I felt like I could do whatever I wanted on the court, but then I wanted to make sure that I did it right because there was no room for errors. There was not space for failure. After going so far and doing it so well and being undefeated, man, you just can’t dream that up, you just can’t! It was an amazing run, an amazing run, and we just couldn’t lose period. We had already done that in Barcelona (1992 Olympics), there’s no way we could do it again.
Carmelo Anthony, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympic medalist
My favorite Olympic memory? I'd have to say the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
We were coming off a disappointing loss to Argentina in the semifinals of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, where we ended up taking the bronze medal. And then finished third in the 2006 World Championships in Japan, losing in the semifinals to Greece. Those were tough. We considered ourselves the best basketball players in the world and we weren't, but everything changed after that. We knew what we had to do.
Coming into the 2008 Olympics it was all about redeeming ourselves for those two disappointments. It was special the way that team came together. Kobe committing to the team, along with D. Wade, LeBron, Chris Paul and all the guys. We knew we'd have to beat ourselves in order to lose, and we were determined to not let that happen. No, we were going to go over there and do what we had to do to win, and we did.
Jim Tooley, USA Basketball CEO 2001 – present
There’s a lot of memories for both the men and women and it’s hard to come up with one moment. I remember Vice Carter’s dunk versus France in the 2000 Olympics which was amazing. I remember Lithuania having a 3-point shot to beat us in the (2000 Sydney Olympics) semis kind of indicating a change is coming. And then one of my most vivid memories was seeing the men on the bronze medal podium instead of the gold medal podium in ’04 which was quite sombering. And on the women’s side, the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where they had 32,000 plus people watch them win the gold with such class and fast forwarding to 2000 where they beat host Australia for the gold. I marvel at their incredible run since the 1992 Olympics of making each of their Olympics look easy, and I know it’s not easy. The grace with which the women have played and now going for a seventh consecutive gold in Tokyo. It’s one of the best stories in all of sports.
Quinn Buckner, 1976 Olympic gold medalist
The one that comes to mind first was when we won the Olympics in Montreal (1976) and being at half court, being with the basketball and I just kind of did a little dance, dancing around. I was very excited about it, because that was my aspiration. My aspiration wasn’t first to be an NBA player, it was to be in the Olympics. I had seen in ‘72 and it was clear to me what had happened, and to have a chance to be a part of reestablishing USA basketball as the Olympic champion was something that was important to me, so I remember that. That was really the big part of it. I know the other part of it was because there were people who didn’t think we had great players on our team, that we were going to be too short, or whatever, to play against what was going to be Russia, but it ended up being Yugoslavia who we played in the championship. Once you get through pool play and to the championship, you don’t really care who you play, but the ideal scenario would have been to beat Russia for the gold medal, but that didn’t happen. We played Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia was very good then.
Val Ackerman, USA Basketball President 2005-08, WNBA President 1996-2005, and current Big East Conference Commissioner
My most emotional moment was the gold medal win by the women's Olympic team in Atlanta -- the culmination of many months of planning and a triumph for the many people at the NBA who supported the effort. The team's performance paved the way for the launch of the WNBA the following year, adding to its historical impact. My other favorites: the gold medal for the Dream Team in Barcelona (1992) and our double gold in Beijing in 2008. It was an honor to be associated with USA Basketball and a thrill to be in the stands during such momentous events in national team history.
Patrick Ewing, 1984 and 1992 Olympic gold medalist
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of the Olympic opening ceremonies. You walk into a stadium where every country is represented, and I was proud to be representing America. My favorite memory is from the 1984 Olympics – we won the gold medal, and I was on the podium with my team. I looked out into the audience and I saw my dad in the stands, and I did not know that he was going to be there. It was surprising and made me extremely happy that he saw me win Olympic gold!
Robbie Hummel, USA Men’s 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Team member
Mine has to be actually attending the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta with my parents and brother. We saw a basketball game, baseball, handball, volleyball and a track and field event. I remember Nike Town having blocks to get down in that you could act like a 100-meter dash runner. That was really cool for 7-year-old me. I still have my USA Olympic team hat with a bunch of pins on them at my parents’ house.
Lindsay Whalen, 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist
My favorite Olympic memory is the phone call I received from Carol Callan while I was playing overseas in Prague. It was a short phone call to tell me I had made the Olympic team and I would be going to London with Team USA. I could not wait to call my parents and tell them the good news. I knew after that phone call my life would be different as I was now going to be an Olympian. That phone call was also a great motivator for me to improve my skills and physical condition so I would be able to represent my country in the best possible way. I was also able to reflect on a lifetime of work at that point that led me to that moment when Carol called me. I will never forget that five-minute phone call when it became official, I was an Olympian.
Alonzo Mourning, 2000 Olympic gold medalist
My most memorable is coming back to Miami during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Witnessing the birth of my daughter and flying back to Australia the next day to win the 🏅 for our country.
Spencer Haywood, 1968 Olympic gold medalist
When we finished the final (defeating Yugoslavia 75-60) and the buzzer went off and we had won the gold medal, they were coming around and putting the medals on our necks. When they were getting close to put the medal on my neck, I flashed back to four years before when I was in indentured slavery in Silver City, Mississippi, and now here I am representing the United States with the gold medal on the grandest of stage of all time. For me at that time and ever since there’s never been anything bigger or better than that. But my legs got weak, and (teammate) Jo Jo White saw me getting weak because I was just overwhelmed by the idea, and he reached over and grabbed me and held me up. He and Bill Hosket. I was like, Wow! Wow! Wow! The gold medal, 1968, nothing better!
Canyon Barry, USA Men’s 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Team member
My favorite Olympic memory definitely was watching (Michael) Phelps win eight gold medals in Beijing. It was electric. I love how the Olympics brings excitement to sports that I don’t normally follow closely.
Carol Callan, USA Basketball Women's National Team Director 1996-present
The 1996 Olympics were the culmination of a year’s training for the USA women’s national team. Everyone became so close and invested so much time and energy. When we arrived at Opening Ceremonies in a bus, the players could see the stadium and crowd. Screams of excitement filled the bus. And, our first game in the Georgia Dome (a 107047 win over Zaire) was sold out (a then record 30,230 fans). Something none of the players had experienced. As we lined up for the introductions and the music started, players were jumping up and down with anticipation. The genuine emotions were wonderful to see.
Ann Meyers Drysdale, 1976 Olympic silver medalist
There is not just one favorite memory.
My dream was ALWAYS to be an Olympian and represent the United States. So, since our team did not qualify for the 1976 Olympics at the FIBA World Championship, we still had to get there. This was the first time women’s basketball was going to be in the Olympics, and was my chance to represent my country along with my teammates. We had worked so hard, so we knew we had to qualify at the tournament in Hamilton, Ontario.
Since this being the first time for women’s basketball, only six teams were allowed to compete. Canada, as the host country, was automatic. The World Championship qualifiers were the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Japan. I felt confident that we would qualify, and we did as we defeated Bulgaria in the finals. So, the six teams were set and we were going to Montreal! My dream had come true!
But we were there to represent the United States in basketball and we had been doubted by a lot of people. A bunch of college kids that hadn’t been together too long, with two coaches that were with us every step of the way. So, when we found out that we would be the very first women’s basketball game ever played in the Olympics, versus Japan at 9:00 a.m. the morning after Opening Ceremony, we thought we would be ready! But Sue Gunter our assistant coach had to leave before the ceremony and miss game one because her dad was dying. We were all pretty close, all 12 of us were in one apartment together (now that was a memory in itself!). So, for her to leave Billie Moore’s side for our first game was devastating. We were all hurting for her. And even though Lusia Harris made the very first basket of the Olympic Games for women’s basketball, Juliene Simpson got the assist, and the USA, we ended up losing to Japan by nine points. I was so mad! But I never doubted that we would be in the running for a medal. We had so much fight and belief in each other. Also, I had family there supporting me. My mom and brother Mark and his family were there in Montreal, which meant so much to me!
But getting to Montreal and being the first women’s basketball team representing the USA was such an honor! Being in the Village, with the security because of what happened in 1972, talk that the USA might pull out of the Olympics because of the boycott of the African countries, also had us concerned. So, there are lots of things to think about.
Ariel Atkins, USA Women’s National Team member
I remember watching the torch. When they carry the torch into the opening ceremony, that was always my favorite part. It was just inspiring. I always thought it was so cool, seeing all the different countries come together. And, I remember watching it live when Dawn Staley was able to carry the flag for the U.S. I’ve watched the video often since then, and I think it’s just really cool.
It's also worth noting that the USA men's and women's basketball teams have enjoyed exceptional success in the Olympics.
The U.S. men have medaled in all 18 Olympics in which they have competed, including 15 gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals. The Americans own an impressive 138-5 all-time record (.963 winning percentage), and since NBA players began representing the United States in 1992, the USA is 53-3 in seven Olympics, capturing six gold medals and one bronze medal.
The USA women, which own a 66-3 all-time Olympic record, have medal in all 1o Olympics in which they have competed, and have captured the past six Olympic gold medals and currently are riding a 49-game winning streak that dates to the 1992 bronze medal game.