Olympic basketball changed forever in 1992. The Dream Team was the first squad to feature NBA players on the biggest stage, and they naturally destroyed the competition. Other than the debacle that was the 2004 Olympics, not much has changed in the years since. But each Olympic squad can only bring 12 players. Injuries, vendettas and happenstance have conspired to leave some of the best NBA players of the past 25 years out of the Games. Here, then, are the best modern NBA players who have never played in the Olympics.
NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew D. Bernstein
It's probably for the best that Rodman never made an Olympic team. His rebounding and defense would have been a welcome addition to any squad, sure. On the other hand, bringing Rodman abroad is just asking to start an international incident. Besides, he's reportedly interested in training the North Korean Olympic team. Maybe he can get a medal with them someday! (Note: That will never, ever happen.)
AFP/Getty ImagesVINCE LAFORGET
Sheed's antics always overshadowed his excellence. Before the NBA truly realized how important versatility is, Wallace was a guy who could do it all. He protected the rim (when he was interested in trying, anyway), he drained 3s, he ran the offense from the high post. In essence, Sheed was Draymond Green long before the Warriors "revolutionized" the game. Miss you, Sheed.
Derick E. Hingle
Webber was a member of the 1992 Select Team that famously defeated Team USA in a scrimmage prior to the Games in Barcelona. Of course, coach Chuck Daly might have thrown that game to give the Dream Team a sense of urgency headed into the Olympics, but the point remains. Webber was part of the only team to defeat Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and the rest of the NBA's legends.
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Naturally, Mutombo was never eligible to make Team USA. And the Democratic Republic of the Congo never fielded an Olympic basketball team, which kept the king of the finger wag out of the Games during his NBA career. In retirement, however, he has become an ambassador for the Special Olympics World Games.
Griffin might need to find a four-leaf clover or something if he wants to play in the Olympics before his career is over. In 2012, a meniscus tear prevented him from playing in the London Games. And this year, a quad injury forced Griffin to withdraw from Rio.
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Pierce wasn't an elite player in 2000, so he was left off of the third Dream Team. By 2002, he had become an All-Star, and he made the FIBA World Championship squad in 2002. Pierce was benched after an altercation with coach George Karl, though, and he was replaced on the roster for the 2004 Games. And in 2008, Pierce was dealing with a knee injury — plus, there was the whole rivalry he had with Kobe Bryant at the time, which might have played into him being left off the roster once again.
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Would you rather have a long, outstanding career, or a peak that's practically unrivaled in NBA history? That's the argument between Pierce and McGrady. T-Mac doesn't have any titles, but so what? During his prime, McGrady was a better basketball player than even Kobe Bryant. It's true, Lakers fans. It's true.
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Leonard's career is still young, of course, and there's a chance he never reaches his lofty ceiling. But at this point in time, I have no problem calling him a better basketball player than the guys behind him on this list, premature as it might be. His two-way excellence and incredible potential put him just ahead of Pierce and McGrady, two otherworldly offensive talents who left something to be desired on the other end of the floor. Leonard could have played in Rio if he desired. Instead, he withdrew from consideration in June without an injury or much of an explanation. Perhaps Gregg Popovich taking over as coach in the next Games will be enough to tempt Leonard to chase a medal.
Getty ImagesRonald Cortes
Heading into the 2012 Games, Curry was still a scrawny point guard trying to figure out how to share the ball with Monta Ellis in Golden State (although Ellis would be traded during the 2011-12 season). He was nowhere near the two-time MVP he is today. Curry's knee injury kept him off of the 2016 team, but he'll probably get a chance to go for gold in 2020 — assuming his legs haven't fallen apart by then.
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He's the biggest snub in Olympic history — and all because Michael Jordan allegedly didn't want him on the team. Although to be fair, Magic Johnson later claimed that no one on the Dream Team wanted to play with Thomas. "Isiah killed his own chances when it came to the Olympics," Johnson said in 2009. For now, Thomas sits atop this list with his combination of individual achievement and the accumulated weight of his career accomplishments. Steph Curry will surpass him one day; Kawhi Leonard might, too. But there's still a lot of work left to do to match Zeke.