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Barcelona 29 August 1992, Games of the XXV Olympiad. Men's basketball: Michael JORDAN of the United States shoots during the match United States - Germany. Credit: Getty Images/POWELL Mike

For 36 years after basketball entered the Olympic Games as a full medal sport for men, the question was not who would win, but who would finish second.

The Soviet Union took home the gold when they toppled the US team in a controversial 1972 game. After another semi-final victory for the Soviets in 1988, the sport opened to professionals. Once again, the question became who would finish second. In Barcelona in 1992, with a squad featuring some of the world's best-known athletes - Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird - the gold-medal winning US "Dream Team" gave an exhibition of basketball at its best. After an NBA All-Star packed team finished only sixth during the recent FIBA World Championship in 2002, the question will remain if the winning streak of US teams can prevail in future Olympic Games.

Women's basketball hasn't been quite such a one-sided affair. Since it joined the Olympic programme in 1976, the gold medals have been divided between the US, the Soviet Union and, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States. After a bronze medal in Atlanta and a Silver medal in Sydney, Australia may have their quest for the podium as well as the traditional powerhouse Brazil.



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