U.S. men's basketball stunned by Nigeria in Olympics tuneup

U.S. men's basketball stunned by Nigeria in Olympics tuneup

Updated Jul. 23, 2021 4:12 p.m. ET

It was a sleepy Saturday night exhibition game, not important in the grand scheme of things, just a glorified scrimmage for the U.S. men's basketball team as it prepares for the Olympics.

But then the final score appeared: Nigeria 90, USA 87. 

It was a shocker, even for an exhibition game. 


Keep in mind that the U.S. had never lost to a team from the continent of Africa. Nigeria was also a team that had lost to the U.S. by 83 points (156-73) in the 2012 Olympics. In exhibition games, the Americans were 54-2 coming into Saturday night's contest.

But times are different now. Basketball is an increasingly international game, with more and more players reaching the NBA from outside the U.S. The game has grown in Nigeria as well, and their lineup featured five NBA players, including Gabe Vincent of the Miami Heat, who scored 21 points.

The Nigerians are led by Mike Brown, a former NBA head coach who currently is an assistant for the Golden State Warriors.

Brown took the job in February of 2020 and recently told The Undefeated that he had high hopes.

"There are more players of Nigerian descent in the NBA than probably any other country besides the U.S. And so the talent is there. It’s just about getting everybody organized and on the same page and getting everybody excited about playing and wanting to be a part. And so there are right around 10 or so guys in the NBA that are going to come and try out for the team. So looking forward to mixing some of that NBA talent with some very talented individuals that are playing professionally in Europe and abroad."

How did Nigeria pull it off on Saturday night? First of all, they shot the lights out. In addition to Vincent's scoring, which included six 3-pointers, Nigeria received 17 points from Caleb Agada and 13 from Ike Nwamu as they outscored the U.S. 60-30 from 3-point range. The Americans were led by the 17 points of Kevin Durant. Jayson Tatum added 15 and Damian Lillard had 14.

"Just goes to show that we have to play better," Tatum said

Nigeria also outrebounded the U.S. 46-34 and played a physical brand of basketball.

After the game, U.S. coach Gregg Popovich was calm, giving credit to Nigeria.

"I thought Nigeria played very physically, they did a great job in that regard. And knocked down a lot of 3s," he said. "Give 'em credit."

"Nigeria’s come a long way with their basketball," USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo added.

The basketball world, though, was less calm. With a wide variety of reactions cropping up on social media.

Here is a sampling.

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