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In its first pre-Olympic exhibition game, the United States men’s basketball team fell to Nigeria 90-87 on Saturday night, July 10.
Nigeria defeated the United States, inflicting the country’s first setback to an African nation, led by six NBA players and former NBA head coach Mike Brown.
The historic triumph occurred nine years after the United States humiliated Nigeria 156-73 in the London Olympics, the United States’ greatest win in Olympic men’s basketball history.
That Nigerian team included just one NBA player (Al-Farouq Aminu).
However, 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 on the bench, making it the largest contingent of NBA players on a single Olympic roster for any non-American nation in history.
“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.”
Popovich said the difference in the game was three-pointers. Nigeria went 20 for 42, making twice as many as the U.S. It also won the rebounding battle 46-34.
Meanwhile, the United States had superstars like as Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Kevin Love, while superstars such as LeBron James and Stephen Curry withdrew from consideration for the Olympic squad.
According to USA Basketball statistics, an African nation has only ever challenged a U.S. men’s senior national team – the U.S. defeated Egypt 34-32 at the first world tournament in 1950.
No African country has ever advanced to the Olympic men’s basketball quarterfinals. African nations lost 28 straight Olympic games versus non-African nations from 2000 to 2016.
Congrats to Nigeria.