The basketball world famously changed in 1992, when the Olympics finally allowed NBA players to participate in the Summer Games. Since that original Dream Team, five teams have participated on the global stage, with a sixth ready to roll into Rio this summer. On all but one occasion, Team USA came home with the gold -- yet you might be surprised to learn that the bronze-medal team isn't the worst Olympic squad we've seen in the past 24 years. As for the best? Well, you can probably guess that one.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNeil Leifer
2000's gold-medal squad
Yes, Team USA accomplished the ultimate goal of winning gold in 2000. This wasn't the squad that embarrassed the national team by falling short, and for that, we're thankful. Look at the roster, though! Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett; those are all great players. You also had guys like Steve Smith, Antonio McDyess, Allan Houston, and Vin [expletive] Baker (that's his God-given name, it's fine). That this team won gold is a testament to how weak the field was in 2000, before teams like Argentina and Spain blossomed into their golden generations. Seriously -- Vin. Baker.
Getty ImagesJed Jacobsohn
2004's bronze-medal squad
Okay, this one hurts, but we can get through it together. That 2004 team was super-talented. Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan, Lamar Odom; that's a solid squad. James, Wade and Melo were young, however, and Duncan was never comfortable on a team that was more focused on individual stardom than playing the right way. To top it all off, coach Larry Brown probably could have done a better job getting everyone on the same page. The 2004 squad was built for disaster, which came in the form of losses to Puerto Rico, Lithuania, and Argentina on the way to a bronze medal.
AFP/Getty ImagesMAXIM MARMUR
2008's gold-medal squad
"The Redeem Team" took on legendary status by re-establishing America's basketball dominance in 2008, and it was undoubtedly a fantastic team. At this point, we're basically splitting hairs, so this squad falls down the board a little bit because of the bench. Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd were outstanding NBA players in their primes who probably wouldn't make the Olympic team in any other year (except maybe the aforementioned 2000 squad).
Denver Post via Getty ImagesHelen H. Richardson
2016's Rio squad
They won't be flashy, and you might or might not be watching. Don't sleep on this year's Olympic team, though. As a true basketball team, they're perfectly constructed. You have talented point guards in Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry, big men who can control the paint on both ends in DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan, and ridiculously skilled scoring forwards like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony who will bury the opposition. This team should cruise to the gold medal.
NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew D. Bernstein
1996's gold-medal squad
This is the most underrated Olympic team, which was bound to happen in the wake of the Dream Team. You had players like Barkley, Stockton, Robinson, and Malone carrying over from the previous squad, plus Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, and Grant Hill. In fact, here's a bold take: Dream Team II could have given the original squad a run for its money.
2012's gold-medal squad
The last Olympic squad was a little light in the middle, with Tyson Chandler and Anthony Davis playing center. On the other hand, 2012's team was loaded at guard and on the wings. The combined strength of LeBron, Kobe, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and a still-spry Andre Iguodala vaults this team just ahead of the 1996 roster, but it's excruciatingly close.
AFP/Getty ImagesTIMOTHY A. CLARY
1992's gold-medal squad
I mean, come on -- it's "The Dream Team." When you put Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler and Patrick Ewing on the same team, you have the greatest collection of basketball talent the world has ever seen. Oh, and Christian Laettner was on the squad, too.