Team USA Women’s basketball program has won five consecutive Gold medals and are currently on an unfathomable 48-game Olympic winning streak that dates back to the 1992 tourney in Barcelona when they finished 4-1 and won a disappointing Bronze.
Fortunately, their failures were lost in the larger-than-life shadows of The original Dream Team’s monumental, history-shifting mission. The first-time band of NBA superstars dismantled the competition and set a new standard for U.S. international play.
Fast forward to 2016.
(Photo Credit: usab.com)
While the men still have great success, the women’s program led by UConn Huskies coach Geno Auriemma and a host of other college coaching legends before him, has risen to heights of total domination in international play.
Overall, the women have won nine medals and seven of 10 all-time Gold medal games. But back in the 80s and early 90s, a finely-tuned Soviet Union machine and the juggernaut that was The Unified Team always gave our college players a run for their money.
Until 1996 came and we were sending our soon-to-be WNBA pros into action.
A new generation of women ballers who adapted aspects of the men’s game and started playing faster, grittier, flashier and closer to the rim put USA women’s basketball back on top.
Revolutionary female ballers like Lisa Leslie, the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game and become a fashion model. And playground legends like Dawn Staley who impacted the culture of women’s basketball and elevated its visibility with her play and marketability.
Triple OG’s like Teresa Edwards, next-level talents like Sheryl Swoopes and a cast of others began the perfect run at that watershed ‘96 Olympics.
According to a 2008 piece in afterellen.com, which reflected on that band of 11 pioneers that electrified the Atlanta Olympics, "Prior to the Olympics, the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team toured together for 14 months, laid an athletic and social foundation, connecting with fans across the globe. They hit major college towns for exhibition games; signing autographs, even traveling to Siberia, where the players on the bench had to wear parkas and gloves when they weren’t in the game; holding a team-wide clothing drive for the penniless Cuban national team; and hosting workshops at high schools all across America. They covered 100,000 miles before they landed in Atlanta for the ’96 Summer Olympics."
(Photo Credit: afterellen.com)
Then they flipped that momentum into the inception of the WNBA and sealed the deal with another Gold in 2000.
The women’s national squad continues to win every four years with different coaches and different parts. In fact, Auriemma is the first coach in U.S. women’s national team history to coach in more than one Olympics. Driving this consistency is a core set of principles that have allowed each player and coach to leave egos at the door and invest in each other first.
“It’s something that’s passed down from veteran to veteran with excellent work ethic and it’s contagious,” said Leslie during a telecast of Team USA’s preliminary round game.
Since the formation of the 1995-96 USA Basketball Women's National Team that compiled an overall 60-0 record, 52-0 in exhibition games and 8-0 to win Olympic gold, the USA Women's National Team has been impenetrable.
In 2012, the USA captured a slick, fifth-straight Olympic gold, a feat never before accomplished in any women’s traditional team sport.
On Saturday they will try to make it six straight golds as they face a hard-nosed Spain team at 2:30 PM EDT @Barra Carioca Arena 1
“‘And this team….” Leslie added. “They have so much ability and versatility on offense with Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, Elena Delle Donne, Catchings and Angel McCoughtry playing the 2, 3 or 4 (just to name a few)."
“The biggest competition would be themselves and just being unselfish,” Leslie said. “The sky's the limit for them.”
While the men’s team struggles with continuity and sharing the rock, often finding themselves playing what Paul George referred to as “hero ball,” the women’s team keeps the ball moving and the record unblemished.
“That's the beauty of the team,” Leslie said. “Every night the leader won’t be the same person, but it’s about teamwork, sharing the ball and allowing the defense to dictate the offense.”
It’s been working for two decades now.