The Most Surprising Players To Represent USA Basketball At The Olympics

07.20.16 3 years ago 3 Comments
usa basketball Olympians

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Earlier this summer, the roster for the U.S. Men’s Rio 2016 Olympic Team was released, and things look pretty good. Despite several big names — LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook to name a few — opting out of Rio, the U.S. still wound up with a formidable roster, led by players such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Draymond Green. The one name that might have thrown a few people off was Harrison Barnes. While his poor performance in the Finals likely makes this pick seem more questionable than it is, it was still a bit surprising to see a player who’s never averaged more than 13 points a game get a chance to play alongside such All-Star talent. With that said, Barnes is hardly the first head-scratching selection to Team USA. Every roster has had a few wait, that guy? type guys on it, and to drive that point home, we’re looking at the most surprising players to ever play for the U.S. Olympic Team.

Note: we’re only going back to 1992 for this one; players who made it as amateurs will not be considered.

Steve Smith – 2000 Sydney

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To be fair to Smith, he had a solid career overall, averaging 20 points a game in two seasons with the Hawks in the late ’90s, but he made just one All-Star team in his entire career, and he was never considered to truly be among the NBA elite. Still, he was coming off a season with the Blazers where he shot at impressive 39.8 percent on threes, and his dead-eye shooting was likely what gave him a nod on the team. Smith was a fine player, but when you consider he played alongside the likes of Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway, and Ray Allen, he can’t help but feel like the odd-man out.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim – 2000

shareef abdur-rahim

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To get the obvious part out of the way, from a purely statistical perspective, Abdur-Rahim would certainly seem worthy of a spot in the Olympics, as he frequently averaged over 20 points a game, and in 1999-’00, put up over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for the season. No, Abdur-Rahim makes the list because he put up his numbers as one of the few good players on some truly atrocious Grizzlies teams. How great can a player’s numbers really be when they’re on a team that struggles to get to 20 wins. Perhaps this wasn’t all his fault, but he was never the kind of player who could carry a team even to mediocrity. The fact that he only made one All-Star team for his career would seem to reflect the idea that while Abdur-Rahim was certainly a quality player, he was the definition of a “good stats, bad team” guy.

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