China’s Olympic men’s basketball streak in danger; Iran, Nigeria qualify for Tokyo
China sent a men’s basketball team to every Olympics from 1984 through 2016. Its streak is in danger of being snapped.
China lost to Nigeria 86-73 in its last FIBA World Cup game on Sunday. That means Iran claimed the lone Asian Olympic qualifying spot available at the tournament, after the Iranians beat the Philippines 95-75, also Sunday.
China will get a last chance to qualify to play at its 10th straight Olympics at a tournament next year, where it likely must go through a higher-ranked European nation.
Nigeria’s win meant that the D’Tigers are going to their third straight Olympics. Nigeria needed to beat China to overtake Tunisia for the lone African Olympic berth available at the World Cup.
Nigeria, which went 1-4 at its two Olympics in 2012 and 2016, has a roster that includes current and former NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu, Josh Okogie and Ike Diogu.
Iran goes to its first Olympics since going winless in 2008, when it qualified with a boost by not having to better host nation China. Its roster is led by former Memphis Grizzlies 7-footer Hamed Haddadi.
Iran and Nigeria join Australia and Japan as the first four teams in the 12-team Olympic field. Four more nations will qualify for the Olympics at this month’s World Cup -- two from the Americas and two from Europe.
The last four will be determined next year at those last-chance qualifying tournaments.
Only Australia has played in more consecutive Olympic men’s basketball tournaments on the active list than China.
China and the U.S. each played in every tournament starting with the 1984 Los Angeles Games. China didn’t participate in the Summer Olympics at all from 1956 through 1980. The U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games.
China lost 12 straight Olympic contests dating to when it hosted the 2008 Beijing Games. Now-retired Yao Ming led the team in 2000, 2004 and 2008, but the nation has never reached an Olympic semifinals.
Yao, now president of China’s basketball federation, was reportedly asked who was responsible for this failure. “Me,” he replied to end the brief interview.
Fellow former NBA big man Yi Jianlian is the new elder statesman, at 31 years old and perhaps on his way to a fifth Olympics. In 2004, Yi played at age 16. He remains the youngest man to play Olympic basketball since 1948.
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