The 2000 USA men’s basketball team, led by Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Jason Kidd, didn’t have a whole lot of challenges en route to capturing its Olympic gold medal in Sydney, Australia. Since the challenges were rare, they decided to make their own. In their first game against China, and their 7-foot-6 star Yao Ming, they faced their biggest task despite winning 119-72.
The 2000 USA Olympic team run
Basketball in the Olympics has always been easy for the United States men. Heading into the 2000 Games, the USA men had compiled a 101-2 record in Olympic play. Despite players like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Karl Malone withdrawing from playing in 2000, they still managed to win all eight of their games.
Team USA had two tight contests in the Games, both to bronze medal-winning Lithuania. The USA faced Lithuania in the third game after defeating China 119-72 and Italy 93-61. The game was close throughout, but behind Gary Payton‘s 14 points, Team USA won 85-76 in the closest game since professionals began playing in 1992.
The teams met again in a much closer game when Team USA eked out an 85-83 win behind Vince Carter’s 18 points. Garnett had 12 points and 14 rebounds. The United States had to hold its collective breath as Lithuania had the last shot and missed its 3-point attempt.
The finals against France
After narrowly defeating Lithuania 85-83, Team USA was set to take on France in the battle for the gold medal. France entered the finals with a 4-3 record. One of those losses came at the hands of Team USA, which won 106-94. In that earlier meeting, Antonio McDyess led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Kevin Garnett collected 19 points while also adding 11 rebounds.
In the finals, Team USA maintained a comfortable cushion, leading by as many as 14 points. The team, however, couldn’t ever quite deliver the knockout punch as France hung tough. With less than five minutes remaining, France pulled within four points at 76-72. Team USA gradually pulled away and posted an 85-75 victory.
For the tournament, Team USA was led by Vince Carter, who finished with 14.8 points per game. Garnett averaged 10.8 points and led the Olympic field by averaging 9.1 rebounds per game. Alonzo Mourning also chipped in with a double-digit average, scoring 10.2 points per game.
Kevin Garnett said there was a bounty on Yao Ming
While Team USA was undefeated record-wise, the team failed in one part of their game. Kevin Garnett said the team had a bet that anyone who could dunk on China’s 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming would collect $1 million.
“People didn’t know, we had a bounty out on Yao Ming,” said Garnett in a CBS Sports article. “The whole USA team had a bet. We had a million-dollar bet on who was going to be the first person to dunk on Yao Ming. None of us did. We all tried to dunk on Yao, but he would block it or we would miss.”
While nobody collected the million bucks, Vince Carter had a monster of a dunk over France’s big man Frederic Weis, giving Garnett a little bit of a scare. “The first thing I thought of when I saw Vince dunk over Frederic was oh s–t, you won the million dollars!” said Garnett. “But then I realized it obviously wasn’t Yao. I pushed Vince, and if you look at the clip, he almost punches me in the face by accident. But my first thought was, oh s–t, you won, you got the million.”