NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week: What to watch on Thursday

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Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and the U.S. women’s basketball dynasty take over NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week on Thursday night.

A marathon of four Olympic finals — 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2016 — starts at 7 p.m. ET. The night is capped with an Olympic film — “More than Gold: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics” — at 2 a.m.

The U.S. women won their last 49 Olympic contests — a streak that dates to the bronze-medal game at the 1992 Barcelona Games. A seventh straight Olympic title in Tokyo would match the basketball record held by U.S. men’s teams from the first seven Olympic tournaments from 1936-68.

The seeds were planted before the 1996 Atlanta Games. A team was formed in summer 1995 that traveled more than 100,000 miles on a world tour, playing 52 games and winning all of them. That made the eight-game run to gold at the Olympics, all won by double digits, seem a formality.

The WNBA’s inaugural season was the following year.

LIVE STREAM: NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Thursday, 7 p.m.-3 a.m. ET

Lisa Leslie led the U.S. in scoring in 1996, 2000 and 2004. In Sydney, the U.S. played the first of three straight Olympic finals against Australia, which would become the sport’s primary rivalry. The Aussies were no match, even playing at home, as the Americans cruised 76-54. The Australian team featured a 19-year-old Lauren Jackson.

The 2004 Athens Games marked the arrival of Bird and Taurasi, the team’s two youngest players at 23 and 22. It was also the final Olympics for point guard Dawn Staley, who will now coach the Olympic team in Tokyo, likely with Bird and Taurasi as her starting guards. Unlike 1996 and 2000, the U.S. was tested. Notably in a 66-62 semifinal win over Russia.

The 2016 Olympic team won all of its games by at least 19 points, capped by a 101-72 blowout of Spain in the final.

Rio was supposed to be the last Games for Bird and Taurasi, expected to retire from the national team with their college coach, UConn’s Geno Auriemma, stepping down from U.S. coaching duties after the Games. But both returned under Staley and in Tokyo can become the first basketball players to win five Olympic titles.

MORE: USA Basketball career Olympic points leaders

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NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Thursday, April 23

Time (ET) Program Events Live Stream
7 p.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Basketball 1996 Final Stream Link
8:30 p.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Basketball 2000 Final Stream Link
10 p.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Basketball 2004 Final Stream Link
12 a.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Basketball 2016 Final Stream Link
2 a.m. Olympic Films Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics Stream Link