words // Nick DePaula
Last night, USA Basketball held an hour-long special on NBA TV to unveil the final Men's National Team roster for the 2012 Summer Olympics set to take place later this July in London.
For the first time ever, the entire roster is made up of players who will wear Nike Inc. products.
USA Basketball's title sponsor is, by no coincidence, Nike.
Dating back twenty years to the original Dream Team, we'd see the most brand diversity in all of the team's history capture Gold in Barcelona. Players like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing wore Champion, then-independently owned Converse, Avia, LA Gear, and of course, Ewing Brand.
The 1996 Atlanta Games team featured just four non-Nike players -- Shaquille O'Neal in Reebok, Grant Hill in Fila, Hakeem Olajuwon in Spalding and Karl Malone now in Apex.
Every four years after, that diversity began to wane as smaller brands began to disappear from the NBA hardwood. The 2000 roster for the Sydney Games included just one non-Nike player in Reebok athlete Steve Smith. The oft-forgotten 2004 team that took home Bronze at the Athens Games included adidas-sponsored Tim Duncan, Reebok icon Allen Iverson and AND1 athlete Stephon Marbury.
It wasn't until just before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing that Nike became the team's official sponsor, taking over after both Champion and Reebok outfitted the team with uniforms and practice gear during the 90's and early 2000's.
Dwight Howard was the lone non-Nike Inc. player on that roster, which led to one of the most infamous photo ops of the decade, as Coach K blatantly blocked his sneakers in the official team photo. Team officials denied that the move was planned, but it was just about as obvious as it gets.
Finally, that brings us to this summer's roster. Both Dwight Howard and fellow adidas signature athlete Derrick Rose surely would've been on the roster were it not for their injuries, but it was a bit of a surprise to everyone at adidas that Eric Gordon was left off the team when final cuts were made. Andre Iguodala, James Harden and Blake Griffin were the last three to make the roster, beating out Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay and injured rookie Anthony Davis.
The early consensus is that Blake Griffin perhaps made the roster more for marketing reasons than say...."basketball reasons." Gordon had a nice showing during the 2010 World Championships in Turkey, stretching the floor while shooting 45% from 3 and leading the team in scoring on several occasions. Team officials said the team already had too many guards, and that Gordon, who was injured for most of last season, "looked rusty."
When discussing the qualities he was looking for when mulling over the final roster spots, USAB Managing Director Jerry Colangelo talked about a lot about speed and on-ball defense, versatility and the ability to play multiple positions, all of which perfectly describe Iguodala and Harden's games. Colangelo also often references "equity with the program," preferring players who have international experience with USAB. As of now, Blake's game is that he's a sweet dunker. It's also his first taste of international hoops. While certainly nowhere near as controversial as Isiah Thomas' much-debated snubbing in 1992, it's an interesting final cut nonetheless.
With the final team set, here's a look at each player on the USA Basketball roster for the 2012 London Oympics (seen above in near mug shot style) and the shoes they've been wearing so far. We'll be keeping tabs on the roster as they begin the trek from their Las Vegas practice facility and onwards to England.
Kobe Bryant -- Nike Zoom Kobe VII
LeBron James -- Nike Lunar Hyperdunk+
Kevin Durant -- Nike Zoom KD IV
Carmelo Anthony -- Jordan Melo M8
Chris Paul -- Jordan CP3.V
Deron Williams -- Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Low
James Harden -- Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Low
Russell Westbrook -- Nike Zoom Hyperfuse 2012
Blake Griffin -- Nike Lunar Hyperdunk+
Tyson Chandler -- Nike Lunar Hyperdunk +
Kevin Love -- Nike Lunar Hyperdunk + [Note: Love is signed to Chinese brand 361, but will wear Nike in London.]
Andre Iguodala -- Nike Lunar Hyperdunk +