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Men’s Basketball at the Olympics
With the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics finally underway, it’s got sports fans rejoicing and enjoying the spectacle of athletic talent on show. There are an immense 205 countries taking part (plus an extra Olympic’s refugees team) and they’re competing in 33 different sports to try to win the 339 gold medals that are up for grabs. One of the sports that Nigeria is taking part in is the men’s basketball.
There was huge excitement for the men’s team in the build-up to the Olympics, as the team, who are nicknamed D’Tigers, beat Team USA in a shocker by 90-87. It was only a warmup game for the Olympics, but it showed everyone in the basketball world that Nigeria has a talented team that can not only compete against the best in the world, but actually beat them. Some of the players in the men’s team even play in the NBA over in the US, which is the highest level of basketball league in the world. Gabe Nnamdi Vincent, is a player who currently turns out for the Miami Heat, and he will be a key player for Nigeria in the competition.
Team USA have absolutely dominated the men’s international basketball competitive scene, and have a truly outstanding record in the Olympics. In fact, they have won medals in all of the eighteen Olympic tournaments that they’ve entered. Not a bad return then. Since the Olympics allowed professional athletes to compete in 1986, they have won gold six times, in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008, 20012 and 2016 respectively.
The most famous team that the USA put out, not just in basketball, but probably in the entire history of the Olympics, was at the Barcelona 1992 Games. The squad of players was made up of all the top talent that was playing in the NBA at the time, and the names involved were seriously impressive. It was no wonder, then, that the media started dubbing them as ‘The Dream Team’ and the name soon stuck. The roster included Michael Jordan, who played for the Chicago Bulls, and he was, easily, the most popular athlete in the world at the time. It was nearly impossible back then to not see Jordan’s face staring back at you from your TV, billboards, adverts or the many magazine covers that adorned his image. Other supreme players included Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley.
The Dream Team predictably made a huge splash at the 1992 Olympics, and they commandingly swept aside all opponents they faced off with, to win the much coveted gold. They beat Croatia in the final by 117-85, and solidified themselves as Olympic legends. Every US team that comes afterwards has always been compared with them. One thing that Michael Jordan and the rest of the team knew how to do, was enjoy their Olympic experience. They, apparently, spent the two weeks bonding with each other, and staying up at night playing high-stakes poker. Plus, in the week before the competition started, they had a training camp based in Monte Carlo, and whenever they had any free time they would spend it gambling in the luxury casinos there.
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Unfortunately, going forward, the Nigerian team will have to work harder to win a medal at Tokyo 2020, as in their opening game Australia outscored the D’Tigers 84-67. The Nigerian team started strongly and managed to finish the first quarter tied with the Aussies 23-23. However, after the break, they were never able to keep up with Australia, who pulled away. Nigeria had poor shooting from the free throw line and were unable to sink many three-point shots, which resigned them to an opening defeat. Hopefully the squad will pull together, and channel some of that Dream Team magic to make their home nation proud.