Olympic Games

The most memorable moments in Olympic basketball history

Every four years, the world's best basketball players step onto the international stage to compete for Olympic gold.

The Summer Olympics have been a driving force in the globalisation of basketball, with international basketball now as strong as it's ever been.

MORE: Previewing men's basketball tournament at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

From the 1992 Dream Team to Argentina's golden generation, the Olympic stage has created highlights and storylines that live on through generations. As the 2020 Olympic Games approach, let's take a look back at some of the most iconic moments in Olympic basketball history.

Dream Team, Barcelona 1992

Where else do we start than the Dream Team?

The single greatest collection of basketball talent on one team changed the course of international basketball forever, making their mark as the first team of professionals to compete for the United States.

Led by Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen, the Dream Team was stacked with Hall of Famers, who put on a basketball exhibition for the world as they cruised to a gold medal, winning eight games by an average of 43.8 points per game.

Not only was the Dream Team pure entertainment, they were the rock stars of the Barcelona Olympics who inspired a generation of hoopers around the world.

"It had a huge impact in Europe. If you see interviews that I did or Dirk or Pau Gasol, Manu Ginóbili - we all were affected by the Dream Team," France and San Antonio Spurs legend Tony Parker said.

"That was the point where we were like, 'Wow basketball is cool, want to go to the NBA, maybe it's possible.'

"It definitely started for me after the Olympics."

Vince Carter's dunk, Sydney 2000

Is there a highlight from an Olympic basketball event that gets more airplay than Vince Carter's dunk?

Apologies to France's center Frederic Weis, who is probably sick of seeing that clip do the rounds every four years, but Carter's dunk is legendary.

As Carter picked up the ball off a France turnover, he had nothing but eyes for the rim, with a 7-foot-2 Weis in his way. It didn't matter. He cleared the Frenchman to throw down the one-handed jam, referred to by the French media as "le dunk de la mort" - the dunk of death.

The notoriously high-flying Vince Carter turned a routine steal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics into one of the most memorable basketball highlights of all time.

USA Women change the game, Atlanta 1996

What the Dream Team is for international basketball, the 1996 USA women's team is for the WNBA.

After finishing third at the 1992 Olympics and 1994 World Championships, there was a renewed focus on women's basketball with one goal in mind. Gold.

The Americans embarked on a 52-game global exhibition run to prepare for the Olympic Games, facing off against various college teams and international squads. They went on to go undefeated on their way to a gold medal, winning by an average margin of 45.2 points.

That team spawned a run of six-straight gold medals through 2016, winning all 48 games.

Led by stars Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Rebecca Lobo, Jennifer Azzi and Dawn Staley, the current coach of the USA National Team, the 1996 team is credited with fueling the inception of the WNBA, which this year is also celebrating its 25th anniversary.

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them and the foundation they set for us," WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said at this week's All-Star Game.

Argentina's Golden Generation, Athens 2004

Argentina rode the momentum of beating Team USA in the 2002 World Championships prior to the Athens Olympics, as their golden generation continued to take the basketball world by storm.

Led by Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, Fabricio Oberto, Walter Herrmann, Pepe Sanchez and Ruben Wolkowyski, the Argentinians went on to make history in 2004, beating Team USA in the semi-finals 89-81, thanks to a game-high 29 points from Ginobili.

They went on to beat Italy in the gold medal game by 15 points and became the first and only Latin American team to win Olympic basketball gold since men's basketball was introduced to the Games in 1936.

It was the first time Team USA hadn't won gold since professionals were allowed to compete at the Olympics. If the 1992 Olympics was when the rest of the world got caught up in basketball, 2004 was the fruition of that globalisation.

Liz Cambage dunks, London 2012

At the 2012 London Olympic Games, Australia's Liz Cambage created history, becoming the first woman to dunk in Olympic competition.

Against Russia in the pool stage, Cambage caught the ball at the top of the lane with 6:14 left in the third quarter, taking one dribble before exploding to the basket for the one-handed dunk.

"That's the first time I've seen it in the Olympics," Opals legend Lauren Jackson said after the game.

"Even in the WNBA, you see some girls do it, on a fast break, but she had the zone around her, she had people around her. She made it look so easy."

Australia went on to win a bronze medal, but Cambage owned the moment of the tournament.

USSR defeats USA in controversial gold medal game, Munich 1972

With tensions high between the Soviet Union and the USA in 1972, controversy loomed as the USSR claimed victory in the gold medal game.

Doug Collins drained two free throws to put the USA up 50-49, but the horn went off during his second shot. The Soviets claimed they had called for a timeout before Collins' free throw and the official had not stopped the game.

Three seconds were put back on the clock, but the Soviets failed to score as the USA celebrated their win.

After another review, it was confirmed the official had prematurely started the inbound play before the clock had been reset, leading to yet another replay.

Following the confusing final seconds, the USSR launched a full-court pass to Aleksander Belov, who scored to make it 51-50 and snatch the gold medal from the USA's grasp.

In one of the most controversial finishes in Olympic basketball history, the USA officially protested the result and to this day have still not claimed their silver medals.

Kobe Bryant's fourth quarter, Beijing 2008

Fresh off finishing third at the 2004 Olympic Games, the "Redeem Team" had a mission to restore USA basketball to the top of the world.

In the gold medal game against Spain at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, that goal was in jeopardy as the Spanish side, led by their golden generation of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernández, José Calderón and a teenage Ricky Rubio, had their eyes on an upset.

Until Kobe happened.

Leading 91-89 with 8:13 to go in the fourth quarter, Bryant scored five points, found Deron Williams for a 3-pointer and set up a Dwight Howard dunk. Two contested 3-pointers later - one a 4-point play - and Bryant had scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to go along with a game-high six assists and two blocks in 27 minutes.

On a team that featured LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and a host of NBA All-Stars, they were reduced to spectators as Bryant did what he does best.

Job done.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

#Rondoassistsstrek
On This Date: Rondo's epic assists streak ends
Yash Matange
John Wall (Houston Rockets)
John Wall could return to the Houston Rockets
Nick Metallinos
Anthony Davis, LeBron James
LeBron, AD sound off after Lakers collapse in triple overtime
Yash Matange
Ja Morant
Latest on Morant's knee injury
Yash Matange
Phoenix Suns
By the Numbers: Suns' 15-game win streak
Yash Matange
Warriors
Warriors dismantling opponents in 3rd quarters
Yash Matange
More News