Basketball at the Olympics consists of two tournaments: one for men, and one for women. Each tournament is made up of 12 teams, which qualified for the Games by placing high enough in a previous tournament that served as an Olympic qualifier.
For men's and women's basketball teams at the Olympics, rosters are limited to 12 players. Professionals (including NBA and WNBA players) are eligible to compete at the Games. Before 1992, only non professionals were allowed to compete.
All referees for the Olympic basketball tournament are appointed by FIBA (basketball's international governing body), according to criteria established by the IOC and FIBA. The scorers, timekeepers, 24-second clock operators and statisticians are appointed by FIBA.
The NBA and WNBA use three referees in each game; only two are used in the Olympics, as is custom in international play.
Two arenas will be used for the basketball competition at the 2012 Games. The North Greenwich Arena 1, known currently as "the O2," will host the men's and women's finals.
Following a disappointing bronze-medal performance at the 2004 Athens Games, the U.S. men's basketball team rebounded to take home the gold medal in Beijing. Led by general manager Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the American braintrust used more time than in previous years to select a 12-man roster that they knew would play well together. The roster, headlined by international superstars like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James and complimented by talented veterans like Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony, won all eight of its games in convincing fashion. Its closest margin of victory came in the final, where it held off a valiant effort by Spain, winning 118-107 behind Wade's 27 points. The defending Olympic champion, Argentina, won the bronze-medal match over Lithuania, 87-75.
The U.S. women also went undefeated in eight games, winning each of their games by an average of almost 40 points. The Americans had a balanced attack, led by Diana Taurasi, Tina Thompson and Lisa Leslie. Leslie, who returned from a year-long leave of absence from the game to give birth to her first child, contributed double-digit scoring and won her fourth Olympic gold medal, tying a Games record. In the gold-medal game, the U.S. routed Australia, 92-65. Russia won the bronze, defeating China, 94-81.
Players to watch
Lebron James, USA
Kobe Bryant, USA
Dwyane Wade, USA
Luol Deng, Great Britain
Yao Ming, China
Pau Gasol, Spain
Dirk Nowitzki, Germany
Andrew Bogut, Australia
Luis Scola, Argentina
Diana Taurasi, USA
Candace Parker, USA
Lauren Jackson, Australia