First Olympic Appearance: 1936 (men); 1976 (women)
by Mike Morrison and Mark Zurlo
Did You Know?
When basketball began as an Olympic sport in 1936 (for men only), it was played on outdoor sand courts, which turned to mud in the rain.
Once dominated by the U.S. "Dream Team," international basketball has seen a great deal of parity in recent years as the rest of the world has caught up to the Americans, thanks to fundamentally strong, team-based play. Twelve teams will battle for gold in London. The 2012 U.S. men's team returns as defending champions, but face strong competition, especially from a strong Argentina squad, winner of the bronze medal in 2008.
Competition will be held at the newly built 12,000-seat Basketball Arena and the O2 Arena, which seats 20,000. Leading the defending Olympic champion U.S. team will be Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, and he will be assisted by Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, and former Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan.
The women's competition will also feature 12 teams battling for gold. The Americans, who are the defending champions, should face tough competition especially from Australia. The Australian women have won the silver medal in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympic Games. Russia, winner of the Bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Turkey are also gunning for the gold. The U.S. team is led by University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, and assisted by DePaul coach Doug Bruno, USA Basketball coach Jennifer Gillom, and Atlanta Dream coach Marynell Meadors.