5 facts that prove basketball is the most interesting sport at the Olympics


What's your favourite sport at the Olympics? After reading this, it will definitely be basketball.

As Rio draws ever closer, we're taking a look at each of the Olympic sports in turn. This week, we're heading courtside.

1. When the so-called US Dream Team made its debut at the 1992 Barcelona Games, the appearance of NBA stars such as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley sparked an unprecedented security operation.

Charles Barkley with his Olympic gold medal

The team were billeted to a luxury hotel for the duration of their stay and Barkley recalled: "When you went to the pool on the roof of the hotel, there was like 10 guys standing around with Uzis. So it was kind of funny, it was like - girl in bikini; dude with an Uzi; girl in bikini; dude with an Uzi."

2. The debut of the Dream Team drew some inevitable mis-matches, not least when they came up against Angola, who had warmed up for the Games by losing four games against US college opposition.

Magic Johnson playing for the United States against Angola

Ahead of the meeting with their multimillionaire opponents, Angola coach Victorino Cunha said: "We won five games, and made enough to buy new basketball shoes and a 30-second clock." Angola put up a courageous fight, but still found themselves on the end of a 116-48 hammering.

3. Any mention of Olympic basketball would be incomplete without reference to the 1972 final between Cold War rivals the US and the USSR.

An Olympic silver medal from 1972

The US believed they had won 50-49, only for the official to order to the game clock to be re-set at three seconds - enough for the Soviets to grab a controversial winner. The US players refused to accept their silver medals, which are to this day kept under lock and key at IOC headquarters. Reportedly, some US players have added a clause to their wills to stop relatives from accepting the medals on their behalf.

4. Basketball made its Olympic debut at the 1936 Games in Germany.

Basketball being played at the 1936 Olympics

Matches were played on lawn tennis courts, which by the time of the final were distinctly worse for wear. Torrential rain didn't help, and the gold medal match between the US and Canada turned into a mudbath. With players from both teams finding it impossible to dribble, the final score was kept to a farcically low 19-8 in favour of the Americans.

5. Spain's men's and women's basketball teams were guilty of a staggering faux-pas prior to the 2008 Games in China.

Jose Manuel Calderon playing for Spain

They appeared jointly in a sponsors' poster campaign, apparently making 'slit-eye' gestures. Spanish player Jose Manuel Calderon complained the gesture had been "interpreted incorrectly", adding: "We made an Oriental expression with our eye."