USA: Basketball nation

In a previous article we discussed the reasons for Egypt's current domination in squash. We now touch on the reasons for the most successful nation in basketball for such success of its. What is the most prominent of signposts of the dominance of this nation in the sport: the unparalleled success of its national team on the most highly regarded basketball tournaments on the international and regional stages. It won 18 medals in the 18 Olympic basketball tournaments it participated in, with 15 of them being gold medals. It has been ranked first in the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Rankings far more than any other national team. On the regional stage, the United States and Argentina are the only two national teams in the FIBA Americas zone that have won the quadruple crown: FIBA World Cup Gold medal, Olympic Gold Medal, FIBA AmeriCup Gold medal and Pan American Gold Medal.

What are the reasons for such dominance, read on to find out!

Perceived and actual sport organizational strength

The NBA and NCAA are perceived to be by far the most elite professional and amateur basketball organizations in the world. This means that all of the world’s top players - especially professionals but also a great many amateurs - are drawn to play in the States even if they are not Americans.

Strong culture of basketball

Basketball was after all invented in the United States, and given the minimal resources needed to be available and invested in, the game is cheap and convenient enough for a vast majority of the healthy population. Such explains the popularity of basketball. Why, you may wonder though, is it not as internationally popular as football? We believe that the insularity of the United States is the answer.

Relative ease of turning professional in basketball for an American

The States is able to steer many of its best athletes into basketball at an early age. A career in baseball or hockey usually requires years of minor-league toil with no guarantee of success, while a top-level career in soccer means heading to Europe. On the other hand, Basketball and American football have a straightforward college-to-major-league pipeline, and basketball is the only sport in which a young American athlete can legitimately be signing an eight-figure contract when they’re 19 years old.

Economic incentives

This chart says it all

The right attitude for success to happen

The Americans have a strong sense of entitlement when it comes to competitive basketball on the world stage: they expect their team to not only win, but to win easily against everyone. The 1972 loss to the Soviet Union was seen as a scandal; the failure to win gold in 1988 caused a drastic change to the use of professionals in 1992; a bronze finish in 2004 was felt as a national embarrassment deserving of mourning. Americans do not mind if their soccer team gets bounced in the World Cup Round of 16. Americans do not really care about the World Baseball Classic despite the supposed sacred status of the sport in the nation. But if the basketball team loses, even by a few close games, Hand-wringing and navel-gazing ensue, and then, like in 1992 or 2008, the U.S. digs deep and ensures that the next team out is one of the best ever assembled.

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