Olympic basketball at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

When and where will Olympic basketball take place? How will the tournament work? Find out all about the sport at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021 here.
By ZK Goh and Samuel Friedman

The United States will look to continue their medal-winning ways in basketball at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in July and August 2021.

With Team USA having won medals in 28 of the 30 men's and women's Olympic Games basketball tournaments (23 of them gold), the world powerhouse is expected to dominate once again in the Japanese capital this summer.

But who are the ones to watch? How will the competition work, and where will it take place? Here is our guide to the top things to know about Olympic basketball at Tokyo 2020 in 2021.

Top Olympic basketball players at Tokyo 2020

All eyes will be on players in the National Basketball Association, which is scheduled to end its regular season in May, around a month before the final Olympic qualifiers take place. It seems likely, however, that players on teams that go deep in the NBA Playoffs will be forced to miss the Games.

However, the depth of Team USA should be big enough to cover any absence from the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and many others.

Aside from the U.S., 2004 champions Argentina and current Men's World Cup holders Spain are likely to provide significant threats. And don't count out hosts Japan, led by Hachimura Rui.

How the NBA Playoffs develop is also sure to have an impact on the make-up for European squads in Tokyo.

In the women's tournament, look no further than Team USA, which has won every gold medal since Atlanta 1996. Expect names like Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne to shine, if selected.

With more talent flooding the WNBA than ever before, the American women are favourites once again heading into Tokyo looking to make it seven consecutive gold medals.

Olympic basketball schedule at Tokyo 2020

The men's tournament runs from 25 July to 7 August 2021, with the women's taking place from 26 July to 8 August 2021.

Pool games end on 1 August (men) / 2 August (women). The elimination tournament schedule is as follows (all times Japan Standard Time, GMT/UTC +9 hours):

  • Men’s Quarter-finals:
  • Tuesday, Aug 3 (10:00, 13:40, 17:20, 21:00)
  • Men’s Semi-finals:
  • Thursday, Aug 5 (13:15, 20:00)
  • Men’s Finals:
  • Gold medal game: Saturday, Aug 7 (11:30 – 13:30)
  • Bronze medal game: Saturday, Aug 7 (20:00 – 22:30)
  • Women’s Quarter-finals:
  • Wednesday, Aug 4 (10:00, 13:40, 17:20, 21:00)
  • Women’s Semi-finals:
  • Friday, Aug 6 (13:40, 20:00)
  • Women’s Bronze medal game:
  • Saturday, Aug 7 (16:00)
  • Women’s Gold medal game:
  • Sunday, Aug 8 (11:30)

Olympic basketball venue at Tokyo 2020

At Tokyo 2020, all basketball games will take place at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, a city just north of the capital that is part of the Greater Tokyo metropolitan area.

It is one of the largest indoor arenas in the world, and has hosted two NHL ice hockey games, two NBA regular season games, the 2006 FIBA World Championships, and two World Figure Skating Championships.

Olympic basketball competition format at Tokyo 2020

Twelve teams will take part in each tournament, split into two groups of six teams playing a single round-robin.

The top four teams per group qualify for a single-elimination direct knockout tournament to determine the medallists. In the quarter-finals, the highest-finishing team in Group A will play the fourth-placed team from Group B, while the second-placed teams will face off against the third from the opposite group.

Olympic basketball history

Men’s basketball was introduced to the Olympic programme at the 1904 Games in St Louis as a demonstration event but made its medal event debut at the Berlin 1936 Games. Women’s basketball also made its debut 40 years later at Montreal 1976.

The American men have won a total of 15 of 19 gold medals, but until 1992 only selected collegiate players to represent the team. In Barcelona, the first NBA players took part, with the so-called Dream Team sweeping aside every challenge before them to comfortably take home gold.

However, at Athens 2004, Team USA received an unwanted shock, when they were upset by Argentina's Golden Generation which went on to take home gold.

As dominant as the American men have been, the American women have been just as dominant, if not more so. In the 11 tournaments, the American women have won eight, including the last six. The Soviet Union (1976, 1980) and Unified Team (1992) won the other three.

Team USA are unbeaten in international tournaments since 2006, and hold a 66–3 lifetime record in the Olympic Games. Their last Olympic defeat came in the Barcelona 1992 semi-finals to the Unified Team, while their other two losses came in the inaugural tournament in Montreal.