USA basketball is one of the most storied and dominant teams in the history of sports. The men's team has medaled in all 18 Olympics they have participated in, 15 times taking home the gold.
Every four years, they put together 12 of the very best players in the world and this summer Wizards guard Bradley Beal is a part of it. On Monday, the team officially announced their rosters, including jersey numbers. Beal will wear No. 4.
Beal was No. 23 in high school and college before joining the Wizards, who haven't had a player wear the number since Michael Jordan. So, he switched to No. 3, which has been his number for his entire professional career.
No. 3, however, was worn by Jerry West, 'The Logo,' in the 1960 Olympics and no USA men's player has worn the number since. No one has worn 23 since Clifford Barker in 1948. In fact, Team USA has not issued numbers higher than 15 since the 1950s.
U.S. players are essentially limited to Nos. 4-through-15 and because of that, each one of them has a history of legends wearing them in the past. Beal's No. 4 was most recently worn by Jimmy Butler in the 2016 Olympics, but has also been worn by the likes of Allen Iverson (2004), Charles Barkley (1996), Christian Laettner (1992), Mitch Richmond (1988) and Walt Bellamy (1960); all Hall of Famers.
Bellamy won gold for Team USA before he joined the Wizards' franchise, back in their infancy when they played in Chicago as the Packers. Bellamy is the only player in Wizards/Bullets franchise history whose scoring truly rivals what Beal is doing these days in the NBA. Beal's scoring average of 31.3 points per game this past season was second only to Bellamy's franchise record of 31.6 points per game set back in 1961-62.
Beal, in fact, is the only player in franchise history to represent the U.S. at the Olympics while an active member of the Wizards. But the fact he's wearing the same number as Bellamy, another one of the best players in Wizards history, makes for a nice connection.
All the legends who have worn No. 4 left a legacy for Beal to live up to. Barkley is one of the top scorers in Team USA history. He led the vaunted Dream Team in 1992 with 18.0 points per game while wearing No. 14, then switched to No. 4 to lead the 1996 squad with 12.4 points per game. Barkley is also famous for his quotes, of course, with his memorable line in 1992 about the country Angola: "I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."
Iverson also led the 2004 team in scoring while wearing No. 4. The 2004 team, however, settled for a bronze medal, which led to the Redeem Team in 2008 led by LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, who reclaimed gold.
Beal and the 2020 Olympic roster will try to make it four gold medals in a row for the United States. There is a lot of history behind the jersey and Beal's jersey number. Soon, Beal will carry on that legacy.