Joe Ingles and Matisse Thybulle at Boomers camp in Las Vegas. Photo: Basketball Australia

Team USA has been consistently pushed further in Olympic Basketball. Is this the year Australia's Boomers and Opals topple the powerhouse?

Team USA has been consistently pushed further in Olympic Basketball coming into Tokyo 2020. Is this the year Australia’s Boomers and Opals topple the powerhouse?

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Qualification has been as competitive as ever, with powerhouse basketball nations Lithuania, Serbia, and Brazil missing their chance for Tokyo 2020 despite boasting incredibly talented rosters in the men’s and women’s competitions.

The USA has historically dominated the sport at the Olympics. Team USA men have a winning record of 138-5 in the Olympics, while the women have won seven straight Olympic gold medals.

Basketball has produced some of the most memorable Olympics moments of all time, such as the 1992 Olympics ‘Dream Team’ that consisted of the very best players in the world.

That squad including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird was rivalled by the 2008 ‘Redeem Team’ with Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant.

Team USA’s men have won each of the three gold medals available since 2004, and have claimed six of seven since 1992. Carmelo Anthony has the most gold medals of any male in basketball with three (2008, 2012, and 2016).

The USA women’s team is also a picture of success. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will be aiming for their fifth straight Olympics Gold in Japan, which would set the new record for women’s basketball.

Despite the staggering success, both sides are fallible having encountered tournament losses in the past and even losses in exhibition games leading into the basketball at Tokyo 2020.

Athens 2004 produced one of the greatest upsets in Olympics history, as Argentina – led by Manu Ginobili – snagged the gold medal.

The Boomers and Opals will be out to replicate past heroics of underdog nations in 2021.

FIBA rules and parameters subtly differ from the NBA rules many are accustomed to, with hand-checking and zone defence legal which makes defending simpler. Additionally, the ball can be knocked off the rim after a shot, and the three-point line is shorter with a narrower court width.

In that respect, athletes who play competitively in leagues outside of the NBA have an advantage in their familiarity.

The competition is set to begin on July 25 with the men’s competition, while the women’s competition will begin a day later.

Can the Boomers claim their first medal?

The Australian Boomers have never medalled in a World Cup or Olympics. The ‘Golden Generation’ of men’s basketball will carry this burden on their shoulders, as they enter the twilights of their careers at Tokyo 2020.

Andrew Bogut is one who had to pass up the opportunity when the Olympics were delayed in 2020. For NBA veterans Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes and Matthew Dellavedova, this may be their final crack at an Olympic Games together.

The future, however, is in very capable hands. The likes of Josh Giddey, Josh Green and Matisse Thybulle inject exuberant youth to the roster in their first Games.

Thybulle will be the wildcard for the Boomers. Primed to break out, the 24-year-old from the Philadelphia 76ers was named on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team for 2020/21. He offers incredible length at guard or forward, having led the NBA for steals, deflections, and blocks for a guard per 36 minutes this season.

In the Boomers’ three exhibition games in Las Vegas, Thybulle has dominated on both ends and left fans dazzled with his ability on the court. The 76er will be a must-watch in Japan, but he will do so without his teammate Ben Simmons.

Simmons’ withdrawal from the Boomers squad on the eve of its training camp was a cruel blow to Australia’s chances. He is undoubtedly the greatest male Australian basketballer of all time, and he’s just entering the prime of his career at 24 years of age.

But this Boomers squad has proved in their three exhibition games that they are well and truly capable of reaching the summit without him.

More Boomers News

Australian Boomers vs. Nigeria: Five key takeaways before Tokyo 2020

Australian Boomers vs. Team USA: Five key takeaways before Tokyo 2020

Australian Boomers vs. Argentina: Five key takeaways before Tokyo 2020

At Rio 2016, the Boomers once again fell agonisingly short from a place in Australian basketball immortality, losing out in the bronze medal game to finish fourth. Team USA went on to win, with Serbia and Spain rounding out the podium.

Tokyo 2020 Men’s Basketball Group Stage

Group AGroup BGroup C
Czech RepublicItalySlovenia
United StatesNigeriaSpain

Group presents its challenges for Australia, but nothing they won’t be expected to overcome. Nigeria, in particular, has performed phenomenally in lead-up games. Their blend of length, versatility and long-range shot-making suits Olympic Basketball.

All in all, they will be happy with their group stage opponents having avoided powerhouses Spain, France and the United States.

The Boomers will carry their highest expectations ever this year. Advancing past the group stage is non-negotiable. From there, this squad of Boomers can achieve anything.

The Australian National Men’s Basketball Team medalling for the first time in its history would be one of the great highlights of Tokyo 2020.

When the Boomers beat Team USA in Las Vegas last week, it wasn’t a shock. Instead, the reaction to that game was the surest sign yet that Australia is ready to compete for gold.

The Boomers were unbeaten through three exhibition games before Tokyo 2020. Photo: Basketball Australia

The group stage for the men’s basketball competition at Tokyo 2020 begins on July 25, with the bronze and gold medal matches to be played on August 7.

The Boomers take to the court for the first time against Nigeria on July 25th at 6:20 pm AEST.

Australia’s Men’s Tokyo 2020 Basketball Squad Tokyo 2020

NamePositionOlympic Experience
Aron BaynesCentre/ForwardThird games (2012; 2016)
Matthew DellavedovaGuardThird games (2012; 2016)
Dante ExumGuard/ForwardDebut
Christopher GouldingGuardSecond games (2016)
Joshua GreenGuard/ForwardDebut
Joseph InglesGuard/ForwardFourth games (2008; 2012; 2016)
Nicholas KayForwardDebut
Jock LandaleCentre/ForwardDebut
Patrick MillsGuardFourth games (2008; 2012; 2016)
Duop ReathCentreDebut
Nathan SobeyGuardDebut
Matisse ThybulleGuard/ForwardDebut

Can the Opals claim their sixth medal?

The Australian Opals have been one of our most successful Olympics teams ever and are currently second in the world based on FIBA’s rankings. They have claimed three silver medals and two bronze medals, having qualified for every Games except for Barcelona 1992.

Rio 2016 was a dour performance for the side, crashing out in the quarter-finals after building hopes for a sixth consecutive Olympics medal.

More Opals News

Australian Opals vs. Team USA: Five key takeaways before Tokyo 2020

Sara Blicavs to join the Opals squad ahead of the Tokyo games

Liz Cambage withdraws from Opals side a week out from the Olympics

This year they will be without veteran centre Liz Cambage. The withdrawal of the WNBA All-Star – citing mental health concerns – has undoubtedly hurt their chances of taking it right up to Team USA as they have done in the past.

However, in their one exhibition match, her loss wasn’t felt as much as expected. The Opals dug deep to climb out of a 16-point hole and take the game from the Americans in the final quarter. It was a scintillating performance that put 11 nations on watch.

Their tough, switchable defence was on full display. Offensively, they lived by the three-point line with five shooters on the court for large stretches.

The United States was unable to match their competitiveness as the likes of Leilani Mitchell and Ezi Magbegor flew up and down the court.

Tokyo 2020 Women’s Basketball Group Stage

Group AGroup BGroup C
South KoreaNigeriaAustralia
SerbiaJapanPuerto Rico
SpainUnited StatesBelgium

It was an inspiring performance that will instil confidence in the Opals roster that a gold medal is in their future. The collective buy-in of this squad is inspiring.

The retirement of Lauren Jackson could have signalled the downfall of women’s basketball in Australia. But since the disappointment of Rio, they have been sensational.

A runner-up performance at the 2018 FIBA World Cup to Team USA was a sign that the Opals were back at full strength.

In their exhibition performance, the Opals have laid the blueprint. Switchability and tenacity on defence, fast ball movement and the green light from three on offence.

A medal will be expected for coach Sandy Brondello’s side, and they are well and truly on the hunt for a historic gold medal.

The Opals beat Team USA in their only exhibition game before Tokyo 2020. Photo: Basketball Australia

The group stage for the women’s basketball competition at Tokyo 2020 begins on July 26, with the bronze and gold medal matches to be played on August 8.

The Opals take to the court for the first time against Belgium on July 27th at 6:20 pm AEST.

Australia’s Women’s Olympic Basketball Squad Tokyo 2020

NameOlympic GamesPosition
Rebecca AllenDebutForward
Katie Ebzery2nd (2016)Guard
Cayla George2nd (2016)Centre
Tessa Lavey2nd (2016)Guard
Tess MadgenDebutGuard
Eziyoda MagbegorDebutCentre
Leilani Mitchell2nd (2016)Guard
Jenna O’Hea2nd (2012)Guard/ Forward
Alanna SmithDebutForward
Stephanie Talbot2nd (2016)Forward
Marianna Tolo2nd (2016)Centre
Sara BlicavsDebutForward

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