Ranking Team USA's men's Olympic squads from 1992-2016
Chris Elise / National Basketball Association / Getty

Up until and including 1988, the United States sent "amateur" men's players (usually from the NCAA) to play basketball at the Olympics.

For the most part, it worked.

The country where basketball was invented - albeit by a transplanted Canadian - won nine of a possible 12 gold medals from the time the sport was introduced as a regular Olympic event in 1936.

A loss to the Soviet Union and a subsequent third-place finish in 1988 changed the equation, however. Some European professionals had been allowed to compete in the Olympics for years, and it appeared categorically unfair to bar NBA players from the games - even if their presence would give the Americans a massive edge.

Since then, USA Basketball has sent seven teams comprised mostly of NBAers to the Olympics. Here's how those squads rank:

7. Athens, 2004

Jesse D. Garrabrant / National Basketball Association / Getty

Head coach: Larry Brown
Finish: Bronze
Record: 5-3
Point differential: plus-37

Roster

Position Player
Guard Allen Iverson
Guard Stephon Marbury
Guard Dwyane Wade
Forward Carlos Boozer
Forward Carmelo Anthony
Forward LeBron James
Center Emeka Okafor
Forward Shawn Marion
Forward/Center Amar'e Stoudemire
Forward/Center Tim Duncan
Forward Lamar Odom
Guard Richard Jefferson

On only four occasions in modern Olympic men's basketball history has the United States failed to win gold, and this team was the last to fall short. More a collection of names than a cohesive unit, its failure brought about big changes for USA Basketball.

After Athens, Jerry Colangelo was named managing director of the men's team, Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski was brought in as a full-time head coach, and players were required to commit to a full Olympic/World Cup cycle.

Team USA's shortcomings in 2004 allowed Manu Ginobili and the "Golden Generation" of Argentina basketball to take home gold.

6. Rio de Janeiro, 2016

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Head coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Finish: Gold
Record: 8-0
Point differential: plus-180

Roster

Position Player
Guard/Forward Jimmy Butler
Forward Kevin Durant
Center DeAndre Jordan
Guard Kyle Lowry
Forward Harrison Barnes
Guard DeMar DeRozan
Guard Kyrie Irving
Guard Klay Thompson
Center DeMarcus Cousins
Forward Paul George
Forward Draymond Green
Forward Carmelo Anthony

The 2016 team may have been slightly statistically better than the next squad on this list, but the USA's entry in Rio was missing some big names. LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and Anthony Davis all withdrew from consideration, leaving Kevin Durant - who was a month removed from his decision to join the Golden State Warriors - to lead the way.

The squad endured three scares in preliminary-round play; it beat Australia by 10 points and only defeated Serbia and France by three points each. The Americans improved in the knockout stage, though, beating Spain by six in the semifinal before romping over Serbia with a 30-point victory in the final.

Durant led the way, averaging 19.4 points in eight games. Carmelo Anthony - playing in his fourth and almost certainly final Olympic tournament - ranked second in team scoring with 12.1 points per game.

5. Sydney, 2000

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Head coach: Rudy Tomjanovich
Finish: Gold
Record: 8-0
Point differential: plus-173

Roster

Position Player
Forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Guard Ray Allen
Forward/Center Vin Baker
Guard/Forward Vince Carter
Forward Kevin Garnett
Guard Tim Hardaway
Guard Allan Houston
Guard Jason Kidd
Forward Antonio McDyess
Center Alonzo Mourning
Guard Gary Payton
Guard Steve Smith

Unlike the 1992 and 1996 editions, the 2000 American squad wasn't flush with NBA champions or MVPs after several stars elected not to suit up. The Stars and Stripes ended up having enough talent to keep its spot atop the Olympic podium, but not before playing some nerve-racking games.

The United States' 85-76 preliminary win against Lithuania marked the first time an American team with professional players failed to win by double digits. The two countries met again in the semifinals and produced one of the most memorable affairs in Olympic history.

With just over 30 seconds remaining, Vince Carter hit a clutch floater to put the Americans in front by one. Lithuania had one last chance at the upset, but star guard Sarunas Jasikevicius was unable to fire a potential game-winning triple at the buzzer as Team USA eked out an 85-83 win.

The U.S. had to battle for another competitive victory in the gold-medal game versus France, but the 2000 tournament will always be remembered for "le dunk de la mort" - "the dunk of death."

4. Atlanta, 1996

Andrew D. Bernstein / National Basketball Association / Getty

Head coach: Lenny Wilkens
Finish: Gold
Record: 8-0
Point differential: plus-254

Roster

Position Player
Forward Charles Barkley
Guard Anfernee Hardaway
Forward Grant Hill
Forward Karl Malone
Guard Reggie Miller
Center Hakeem Olajuwon
Center Shaquille O'Neal
Guard Gary Payton
Forward Scottie Pippen
Guard Mitch Richmond
Center David Robinson
Guard John Stockton

Following the "Dream Team" was a tall order, but the 1996 U.S. Olympic squad put on quite a show on home soil. The Americans carried over five players from the previous Summer Games and dominated in similar fashion, going undefeated with an average margin of victory of 32.3 points.

Making his only Olympic appearance after being passed over for Christian Laettner four years prior, Shaq featured in arguably the deepest center rotation in national team history. The trio of O'Neal, Robinson, and Olajuwon combined for 37 All-Star appearances, eight NBA championships, and three MVP awards (one apiece).

3. Beijing, 2008

David Dow / National Basketball Association / Getty

Head coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Finish: Gold
Record: 8-0
Point differential: plus-223

Roster

Position Player
Forward Carlos Boozer
Guard Jason Kidd
Forward LeBron James
Guard Deron Williams
Guard Michael Redd
Guard Dwyane Wade
Guard Kobe Bryant
Center Dwight Howard
Forward/Center Chris Bosh
Guard Chris Paul
Forward Tayshaun Prince
Forward Carmelo Anthony

After the sting of Athens, players had a name for the 2008 squad: the "Redeem Team."

The roster had no holes. It featured a superstar at the apex of his career (Kobe Bryant), up-and-coming studs (James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul), a wily veteran (Jason Kidd), and dedicated specialists in defense (Tayshaun Prince) and perimeter shooting (Michael Redd).

The team blew through the preliminary round with an average margin of victory of 34 points. Its closest contest - which the U.S. won by 11 points - came in the gold-medal game against Spain.

Wade led the squad in scoring. It was during this Olympic tournament and the FIBA World Championships two years earlier that he, James, and Chris Bosh formed a close friendship that ultimately led them to join forces as members of the Miami Heat in 2010.

2. London, 2012

Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Head coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Finish: Gold
Record: 8-0
Point differential: plus-257

Roster

Position Player
Center Tyson Chandler
Forward Kevin Durant
Forward LeBron James
Guard Russell Westbrook
Guard Deron Willams
Guard/Forward Andre Iguodala
Guard Kobe Bryant
Forward/Center Kevin Love
Guard James Harden
Guard Chris Paul
Forward/Center Anthony Davis
Forward Carmelo Anthony

With numerous big men unavailable due to injury, Colangelo emphasized speed and athleticism in his roster selections. His decision initially proved worrisome, as the U.S. endured two narrow wins during its five-game pre-Olympic exhibition tour.

But once the 2012 Games rolled around, the Americans' small-ball offense ran like a well-oiled machine. Aside from a five-point win over Lithuania, the U.S. breezed to a 5-0 record in group play, erupting for an Olympic-record 156 points in its 83-point victory against Nigeria along the way.

The Americans faced little resistance until the gold-medal rematch against Spain, in which Pau and Marc Gasol gave Team USA fits and exposed its lack of size. The championship clash was tightly contested until the U.S. pulled away thanks to James' timely play in the final minutes.

The native of Akron, Ohio, joined Michael Jordan as the only players to win an MVP award, an NBA championship, Finals MVP honors, and an Olympic gold medal in the same year. Durant, meanwhile, set a tournament record with 156 total points.

1. Barcelona, 1992

Andrew D. Bernstein / National Basketball Association / Getty

Head coach: Chuck Daly
Finish: Gold
Record: 8-0
Point differential: plus-350

Roster

Position Player
Forward/Center Christian Laettner
Center David Robinson
Center Patrick Ewing
Forward Larry Bird
Forward Scottie Pippen
Guard Michael Jordan
Guard Clyde Drexler
Forward Karl Malone
Guard John Stockton
Forward Chris Mullin
Forward Charles Barkley
Guard Magic Johnson

In 1989, FIBA voted in favor of allowing NBA players to participate in the Olympics, amending a longstanding rule that had kept basketball's brightest stars from the largest international sporting stage. The change spawned the "Dream Team," one of the greatest sports rosters ever assembled.

Eleven of the squad's 12 players were eventually inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. The lone exclusion was Laettner, whose heroics had propelled Duke to a second straight national championship months before the 1992 Games. The coaching staff was just as noteworthy, with Hall of Famers Daly, Krzyzewski, and Wilkens manning the sidelines.

Team USA was never threatened during the tournament. The U.S. scored more than 100 points in every contest and won by an average margin of 43.8 points. The Americans' closest matchup was their 32-point victory in the gold-medal game against Croatia, and Daly didn't use a single timeout across eight contests.

Perhaps most importantly, the "Dream Team" is largely credited for globalizing the NBA into what it is today.

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Ranking Team USA's men's Olympic squads from 1992-2016
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