4. 🏀 USA Basketball's 16-year curse
The U.S. men's Olympic basketball team has failed to win gold three times, all 16 years apart (1972, 1988, 2004). And now, with Tokyo 2020 on the horizon, the team appears to be in danger of keeping that 16-year curse alive.
Driving the news: The FIBA World Cup begins in China next month, and virtually every NBA star who was invited has declined (James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, the list goes on).
- The bad news: Of the 11 Americans who were named to last year's All-NBA teams, only one, Kemba Walker, has yet to withdraw. It's gotten so bad that USA Basketball had to invite six new players yesterday (Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Montrezl Harrell, Mason Plumlee, Julius Randle and Thad Young).
- The good news: No matter how many players drop out, Team USA will still be favorites to win the World Cup. Plus, the superstars who declined roster spots are still eligible to play in the Olympics — and much less likely to turn that down.
The bottom line: "When the Olympics begin next year in Tokyo, it will be 16 years since the last Team USA Olympic basketball loss, which was 16 years after the previous Team USA basketball loss, which was 16 years before the previous Team USA basketball loss," writes The Ringer's Rodger Sherman.
- "Maybe it's a coincidence, or maybe 16 years is just how long it takes U.S. basketball stars to forget that it's possible to lose on the world stage."