Basketball became a full medal sport at the 1936 Berlin Games for men and at the 1976 Montreal Games for women.
The United States, where the game had been invented, came to dominate it, and for the first seven men’s Olympic basketball tournaments the question was not who would win, but who would finish second.
In the mid-70s the situation started to slowly but steadily change as the rest of the world began to catch up. The 1992 Barcelona Games marked a historic moment for the sport when professional players, including those in the NBA, were allowed to participate at the Olympic Games. Since then, the gap between the US and the rest of the world continues to shrink.
Basketball is played in 4 periods of 10 minutes each at the Olympic Games. There are two events: the men’s and the women’s competitions. Both tournaments are played with 12 teams, all teams having to qualify except the host nation and the world champions. Qualification proceeds through championships organised on each continent a year in advance of the Olympics.
In 1992, for the first time, professional players were allowed to represent their countries in national team competition. The subsequent US men’s team was dubbed the “Dream Team” by the world’s media and dominated the 1992 Olympic tournament. It is widely regarded as the greatest basketball team ever assembled.