Nigeria stuns U.S. men’s basketball team in first pre-Olympic exhibition

0 Comments

The U.S. men’s basketball team lost to Nigeria in its first pre-Olympic exhibition game, its first-ever defeat to an African nation.

Nigeria, with six NBA players and former NBA head coach Mike Brown at the helm, won 90-87 in the first of a series of games in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

“I’m kind of glad it happened,” said U.S. head coach Gregg Popovich, noting that Nigeria has been practicing together since late June and the Americans for four days. “That loss means nothing if we don’t learn from it, but it can be the most important thing in this tournament for us to learn lessons from it.

“I don’t think anyone should act nor would we act [like] that this is the end of the world.”

The landmark victory came nine years after the U.S. shellacked Nigeria 156-73 at the London Olympics, the U.S.’ biggest blowout in Olympic men’s basketball history.

That Nigerian team included one NBA player (Al-Farouq Aminu).

This Nigerian team includes Gabe Vincent, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala of the Miami Heat, Chimezie Metu of the Sacramento Kings, Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miye Oni of the Utah Jazz.

With Jahlil Okafor and Jordan Nwora also in the player pool, it could field the largest contingent of NBA players on a single Olympic roster for any non-American nation in history.

Popovich said the difference Saturday was three-pointers. Nigeria went 20 for 42, making twice as many as the U.S. It also won the rebounding battle 46-34.

The U.S. has three players with Olympic experience — Kevin DurantDraymond Green and Kevin Love. It’s missing three of its 12 Olympic players: Devin BookerJrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are playing in the NBA Finals.

Superstars including LeBron James and Stephen Curry withdrew from Olympic team consideration before the team was named.

“Tough times brings guys and teams and people together,” said forward Jayson Tatum, who started with Durant, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Bam Adebayo. “It’s not going to be easy. We knew that coming in.”

The U.S. is trying to rebound from a seventh-place finish at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, its worst-ever international tournament result.

Its lone Olympic defeats in the Dream Team era came in 2004, when it took bronze. An overhaul followed, with Mike Krzyzewski leading teams to three consecutive Olympic titles.

“Everybody expects us to win every game, and that puts some pressure on you, for a new group in a tough circumstance,” said Popovich, who succeeded Krzyzewski after the 2016 Rio Games, where the U.S. had a pair of three-point wins.

Only once has an African nation ever challenged a U.S. men’s senior national team — the U.S. beat Egypt 34-32 at the first world championship in 1950, according to USA Basketball records. Back then, Egypt was the reigning European champion, and the U.S. was represented by the Denver Chevrolets of the AAU.

An African nation has never made the Olympic men’s basketball quarterfinals. From 2000 into 2016, African nations lost 28 consecutive Olympic games to non-African nations.

The U.S. next plays Australia in an exhibition on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. A full exhibition series broadcast schedule is here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

Joel Embiid
Getty
0 Comments

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

Delta LA 2028
LA 2028
0 Comments

Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!