Five-Ring Circus

Nigeria, Switzerland, Egypt, and Thailand: A Rundown of USA Basketball’s Most-Defenseless Olympic Victims

Al-Farouq Aminu
Al-Farouq Aminu of Nigeria looks dejected after his country’s huge defeat against the United States at the London Olympics.

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Yesterday in London, LeBron James and co. lived up to their own better-than-the-Dream-Team hype, beating Nigeria 156-73. In the highest-scoring game ever for a men’s Olympic basketball team, the Americans hit 29 three-pointers and scored 49 points in the 10-minute first quarter. Nigeria has never before fielded an Olympic basketball squad, and after this, they may never want to again.

Though Tunisia held its own for about eight minutes earlier this week, it usually gets ugly fast when Team USA meets an opponent from Asia, Africa, or, well, Switzerland. How did this game stack up against other U.S. Olympic basketball blowouts?

USA 86, Switzerland 21, 1948: Alex Groza led Team USA with 19 points, while Pierre Albrecht led the Swiss with 5. This game established the heated and violent rivalry between America and Switzerland that continues to this day.

USA 101, Thailand 29, 1956: This was the first time a U.S. Olympic squad had ever scored more than 100 points in a game. They were led in scoring by 5-foot-11 guard Ron Tomsic, an active Air Force officer and the shortest player on the U.S. team. “I was taller than [Thailand’s] center,” Tomsic later told the Daily Pilot. This must have disheartened Thailand, as they never again made the Olympics in basketball.

USA 116, South Korea 50, 1964: Seven U.S. players scored in double figures. Jim “Bad News” Barnes scored 26 points, while 7-footer Mel Counts had 18. Later, Barnes would retire from basketball and manufacture a much-loved condiment called “Bad News Barbecue Sauce” (“the best sauce going!!!” according to one enthusiast).

USA 99, Japan 33, 1972: Mike Bantom had 18 points and Dwight Jones had 14, while nobody on the Japanese side scored more than nine. Later in the Munich Games, the U.S. team lost unjustly to the USSR in the gold-medal game after a series of officiating and technical mishaps. The furious Americans refused to accept their silver medals. But they still had Japan!

USA 102, Egypt 35, 1988: College stars Dan Majerle and David Robinson led the Americans in a laugher in which Egypt’s highest scorer topped out with six points. Afterwards, a reporter asked USA coach John Thompson if he felt sorry for the Egyptian squad. “Feel for them? It never entered my mind,” he responded. The Americans would again lose to the USSR, this time in the semifinals. That defeat would usher in the Dream Team era, ensuring an ample supply of alley-oop-strewn blowouts in years to come.

USA 116, Angola 48, 1992: “I don’t know anything about Angola, but Angola’s in trouble,” said Charles Barkley in a pre-game press conference. He was right. The original Dream Team dismantled the African team, at one point going on a 46-1 run. Barkley led the Americans with 24 points, and also led the Americans in being a huge jerk, as he gratuitously elbowed Angolan Herlander Coimbra after the Dream Team had scored 31 unanswered points. “He hit me earlier, so I hit him,” Barkley later told USA Today.

USA 133, China 70, 1996: Dream Team II came out fast against China, leading by 37 at halftime. Charles Barkley didn’t play, instead choosing to sit on the bench and lead the crowd in a rousing version of “YMCA.”