Travis 2nd Best
Years ago

Boomers: May The 4th Be With You

Why the 1996 Boomers' 4th place finish is every bit as good as a medal

-5 and 3 record

-In group play, only lost to Vlade Divac and Yugoslavia (eventual Silver medallists)

-Lost in the semi-finals to USA (eventual Gold medallists).

*It's a super easy arugment to say that '96 Dream Team is the best edition, even better than '92. Besides Jordan, they were legitimately the best 12 that USA could send. And on home soil.*

**2021 Team USA doesn't even come close.**

-Lost in the Bronze medal game to Arvydas Sabonis' Lithuania. ARVYDAS FRIGGEN SABONIS.

-All players from the NBL. Grown playing in various state leagues and the local Australian competition, with almost the entire squad emanating from the AIS at some point.

-No impactful NBA role players or borderline stars, no "my dad lived in Australia for 7 years when I was 24 months old, hence I'm Aussie" defensive superstars. No Lucien James Longley.

-Tonny Jensen's haircut

*If you take career trajectory, using statistics and All-NBA/All-Defensive selections as the key criteria, for 2 seasons prior to the Olympics:*

Matchup by position - 1992 vs 1996 Team USA


25 year old P. Hardaway was in his prime (consecutive 1st team selections); Stockton actually got better with age; Payton was in his prime and was DPOY. '92 Stockton had just surpassed Thomas as the league's elite small PG, Magic didn't play that season due to HIV. Advantage '96.


Prime Jordan and Drexler beats Miller and Richmond. Advantage '92.


Bird had not made any All-NBA team for the last 3 seasons and due to injury was only playing 45-60 games a season; '92 Pippen just got his first All-NBA (2nd) nod; Mullin was in his prime. '96 gave you prime Pippen and emerging Grant Hill. Advantage '96.


'92 Malone and Barkley + Laettner vs '96 Malone and Barkley. Evident in still being All NBA (1st), Malone got better with age, Barkley regressed ever so slightly. Advantage slightly '96 or a draw.


'92 Robinson + Ewing vs '96 Robinson, Olajuwon, O'Neal. Robinson, if even possible, improved, Olajuwon and O'Neal were the 2nd and 3rd All NBA choices - but only due to the requirement of selecting All-NBA strictly by position. Advantage '96.

**1996 TEAM USA VS 2021 TEAM USA**

-12 of the 12 on the '96 squad had been named All-NBA, and together, up to the season pre Olympics they combined for 29x 1st Team appearances, 24x 2nd Team appearances and 14x 3rd Team appearances.
-4 of the 12 on the '21 squad had been named All-NBA, and together, up to the season pre Olympics they combined for 7x 1st Team appearances, 8x 2nd Team appearances and 3x 3rd Team apperances.

I feel like the historic bronze medal, whilst a fantastic achievement and a very "monkey off the nation's back" moment - completely undersells what '96 achieved. I get all the "this medal is for past teams" sentiment, I really do.

But more needs to be done to commemorate the '96 campaign. The other 4th place finishes are nice also, but if you truly watch basketball - you would know how truly "against the odds" this campaign was; how much stronger the US and other European countries were; how our program was still very much bush league-ish to even hang with these powerhouses;

Shoot, you were hanging on your seat with Duop Reath needing to play big minutes behind Nick Kay? Try watching knowing our hope of slowing down Divac and Sabonis rests on the creaky 34 year old knees of Ray Borner and John Dorge in the era wayyy before load manageement and advanced sports science.

Topic #49098 | Report this topic

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago


-Beat Kukoc, Radja and Croatia in the Quarters. Thank you Tony Ronaldson.

Hardware based on one game vs Lithuania should not minimise how epic '96 was.

Reply #867145 | Report this post

Years ago

I've thought this and it's a fair point. I think it's just easy to say the 2021 Boomers team is the most successful, not necessarily the best. USA and the other international teams during the 90's were powerhouses compared to now. It's fair to argue the rest of the world recede, but it's also fair to say the Boomers have improved.

At the end of the day, all the hard work going back to the 80's has today resulted in a bronze medal. That's a hell of a lot of work for 1 medal and every Boomer has had input into getting there.

Reply #867160 | Report this post

Years ago

If Yugoslavia was still a country and were full strength every worlds/Olympics it would almost be a race for bronze. Instead they've split into 8 nations I think. Same could be said for before breakup of USSR.

Reply #867161 | Report this post

Years ago

1996 to me was our strongest non medal team.

Reply #867165 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago

In the NCAA they acknowledge where you finish, "led his team to the Final Four, Elite 8, Sweet 16" and so forth.

It makes concession for the nature of tournament play.

The same needs to be done with Olympic campaigns.

I'm as pleased as the next fan with the result - but not really any more so than the fact that they've managed to play for Bronze in 88, 96, 2000.

Consistent 4th place finishes is just as impressive as snagging a bronze.

So all this "golden generation" stuff must cease lol.

4th in a row in 2 straight Olympics! With a backcourt that shot first, second and third and played minimal defense! With usually 6'10 Bradtke guarding monsters down low! With ol' Bear killing guys despite obviously failing skin fold caliper test drastically! Tonny Jensen's hair cut!

Could be middle age nostalgia talking but Smith Chips era Boomers is golden age for me.

Reply #867167 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago

'96 Boomers fell in the semis by 28 to the US which as I've highlighted essentially sent their perennial All NBA 1st and 2nd teamers.

'21 Boomers fell by 19 to a squad with only really one perennial All NBA guy.

What if the US had sent

Westbrook, Harden, Curry, Leonard, Butler, James, Davis and their actual best 12 or close to like they did in '96?

Reply #867170 | Report this post

Years ago

You say Arvydas Sabonis, but Doncic already looked a better player than him.

In 25 years we might look back and think how amazing it was that we beat Luca.

Lithuania was obviously strong around that time though, based on their 3 straight Olympic Bronze 1992-2000 and runner up in 1995 Eurobasket. (Although interestingly didnt finish top 4 in any World Cup around that time).

I think perhaps the 1996 team is a better argument not for being the best Boomers team ever, but a good illustration that good international players were less likely to be going around in the NBA. And perhaps it illustrates how the NBA and FIBA game styles, whilst still different, have converged somewhat since the 1990's.

How else do you explain guys like Heal, Gaze, Bradtke consistently being so good in FIBA international basketball competitions, but never getting very far in the NBA?

Reply #867171 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago

Think you're showing your age.

Doncic was battered and bruised.

The world missed out on seeing prime Sabonis by about 3 million years. Those who saw him pre-NBA athletic peak say he was like Magic, Bill Walton, Jesus Christ and Mahatma Ghandi rolled into a unicorn like package. No cap.

Not to mention that Lithuania were not "Luka and his teammates". They were ridiculously stacked, had size at every position, athletic, moved the ball. Like peak mid 00s Spain almost.

"Role players" didn't really exist in the NBA and even the mention of "an international guy" was taken as a bit of a joke/risk - especially if you weren't a big.

Watch any '96 Boomers game and observe the individual skill level of Gaze, Heal, Vlahov, Ronno, Bradtke.

It could be that these old folks just didn't get the benefit of social media.

I mean, we "beat" a half arsed Team USA at Marvel and it's front page news and highlights everywhere, but when we killed off '96 Croatia's gold medal dreams, you had to dig through obscure basketball mags to read about it...

That '96 upset was akin to us knockin off 2004 Argentina, 2008-12 Spain or 2012 Russia. It was MASSIVE. As massive as Tony Ronaldson's derriere.

Reply #867174 | Report this post

Years ago

"It could be that these old folks just didn't get the benefit of social media."

This is a good point, AFL was also overpowering basketball in Australia which also didn't help the coverage.

I also remember Sabonis, what a monster but also incredibly graceful and way way ahead of his time. Pity it took awhile for him to get to the NBA.

Lithuania were our biggest rivals, such great battles with them over the years.

Reply #867177 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago

For context, in '96, the USA was still far and away the best team with no real threat to lose a game.

After that was Croatia. In a time when "having an NBA player" on your roster meant something as virtually no team did. They had 2. Not Delly role players or potential-laden but never fulfilled like Exum. Actual NBA players with huge Euro credentials in Kukoc and Radja. Guys that were taking game-winners from plays that Phil Jackson drew for them forcing Scotty Pip to sulk.

If the US were a sure-thing for Gold, Croatia was a sure thing for Silver.

And we knocked them out with a Tony Ronaldson buzzer beater. Not an exhibition game in Melbourne/Marvel. An actual Olympic Quarter Final Game. In Atlanta, Georgia. USA - the home of hoops.

How that's any less impressive than beating Luka and some other guys is beyond me LOL.

Reply #867178 | Report this post

Years ago

Travis stop cherry picking your arguments, there's 3 guys (KD, Book, Lillard) in the top echelon of stars in the NBA on this USA team and another bunch of them scratching at the door to that level (Bam, Tatum, Middleton, Holiday, Levine and Grant), then theres a couple of role players. No other team has anywhere near that level of talent ever...

Just appreciate the fact that these boomers did what they had to and got bronze and previous generations unfortunately fell short.

Reply #867186 | Report this post

Years ago

"top echelon of stars in the NBA on this USA team and another bunch of them scratching at the door to that level (Bam, Tatum, Middleton, Holiday, Levine and Grant)"

What? Tatum is the only one close to scratching the surface of the 'top echelon' of stars in the NBA. Grant? SMH.

Reply #867188 | Report this post

Years ago

"All players from the NBL. Grown playing in various state leagues and the local Australian competition, with almost the entire squad emanating from the AIS at some point."

This is the squad: Tony Ronaldson, Brett Maher, Scott Fisher, Pat Reidy, Sam MacKinnon, Tonny Jensen, Andrew Gaze (c), Shane Heal, Mark Bradtke, John Dorge, Andrew Vlahov and Ray Borner

Gaze had played in the NBA in 93-94 and would return in 1998. After the Olympics Heal and Bradtke went straight to the NBA - so you could argue the three of them had NBA level talent.

The rest (with the exception of many Jensen, Borner and Dorge) could easily have played in Europe like today's Aussies but it only emerging as a pathway Australian players were considering back then. But the talent level was there.

It’s clear they did punch above their weight in terms of the roster but they had more ability to play with the world's best than their "All-NBL" status belied.

Reply #867191 | Report this post

Years ago

Thank God we had Tonny Jensen!!

Reply #867194 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago


I can only state facts not speculate on potential.

That's not cherry picking.

And as it stands, the '21 team only has Durant as someone who has made All NBA (1st)
multiple times, with Lilard who has appeared once, and 2nd team 3x

From there it's Green and his 1x 2nd and 3rd team appearances and Taytum's one 3rd team.

That's factual.

That's like taking the '96 Boomers and pitting them against '96 Karl Malone, Gary Payton 2x guys who have squeaked into the odd 3rd team (let's say Reggie Miller and Dennis Rodman) and 8 guys who start for their NBA teams but have never made All-NBA.

The Nick Andersons, Danny Ferrys, Robert Horrys, Billy Owens lol.

On top of that, you take Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Croatia and you sub divide their nation/talent pool
even further, so that instead of 3 super dominant teams, you have 6 ok-ish teams with one killer instead of 2-3.

Put in context, it paints a much clearer picture.

Reply #867195 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago


they may have briefly played elsewhere (the term played used loosely in Gaze's case) but for all intents and purposes they plied their trade in the NBL.

In an era when we were below a blip in the world radar.

No "not a cupcake league" campaign, no
Ball publicity.

In that context, what '96 achieved is MASSIVE.

Reply #867196 | Report this post

Years ago

Sabonis was incredible. Remember going to Apollo in87 and 88 and seeing the Boomers USSR games. He was incredible. They were great games and times.
Also a reminder of how bloody good A Gaze was. He was incredible in those series.

Reply #867197 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago

For the people fighting to
state that US sent a good team lol;

if you replace the 2021 squad, with a similar 1996
player based on age, height, statistical output and award, the 1996 team that the Boomers would have had to beat in the semis, instead of

Penny/ Payton/ Stockton
Robinson/ Olajuwon/ Shaq

a "like for like" with what they sent in '21 would be the '96 version of

Vin Baker
Allan Houston
Karl Malone
Sean Elliott
Kevin Willis
Vernon Maxwell
Bryant Stith
Latrell Sprewell
Tim Hardaway
Felton Spencer
Clifford Robinson
Juwan Howard

Reply #867198 | Report this post

Years ago

If Yugoslavia was still a country and were full strength every worlds/Olympics it would almost be a race for bronze. Instead they've split into 8 nations I think.
It's always a great what-if. From the NBA ranks alone:

Serbia: Jokic, Bogdan, Boban, Bjelica
Croatia: Saric, Zubac, Bojan, Hezonja, Zizic, Bender
Slovenia: Doncic, Dragic, Dragic, Cancar, Tobey
B&H: Nurkic
Montenegro: Vucevic

Jokic and Doncic are two of the best on the planet. Decent centres and a few scorers. They would've been tough.

Reply #867204 | Report this post

Years ago

This is a dumb thread and there's no reasoning with you little trav

Reply #867206 | Report this post

Years ago

Maybe you're right but at the end of the day we’ll look at one team with a medal and the other without and so we’ll move onwards. Plus this just screams old head energy

Reply #867209 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago

Keep believing that they're really sending Team US-A anon.

If A denotes All NBA 1st Teamers, B denotes 2nd Teamers, C 3rd Teamers, maybe we can rename the 2021 squad Team US..G?

Reply #867210 | Report this post

ME (he/kangaroo)  
Years ago

I think we can agree the 1996 team was a great team but I don't agree with this attempt to seemingly minimize the achievement the current Boomers have made. All this thread proves to me - seeing as you cant fairly compare basketball across decades and generations - is that Australia has been putting out quality basketball teams for a very long time now. And whatever you want to think of then vs. now, today's team is the one that took that next step in getting recognition for it.

Reply #867216 | Report this post

Years ago

OP's point seems to be that 1996 was a particularly strong era for Olympic basketball.

It's not necessarily denigrating the current team to suggest 1996 group faced stiffer competition.

Having said that, Boomers won bronze in Tokyo with the following teams finish ahead of them

- USA led by Durant- a top 15 NBA player of all time who now has 3 Olympic golds. Supported by Lillard, Booker, Tatum, Middleton, Holiday and a bunch of other solid players.

- France with Gobert, Fournier, Batum, De Colo, all guys with distinguished international careers behind them. France has been a powerhouse of international basketball over the past decade.

And Doncic, whilst banged up, is already shaping up as an All-time great. The guy won Euroleague MVP at 18 and is coming off 2 straight All NBA teams. Teammates are capable role players rather than stars, but that's all you need in basketball to round out a very fine team. Especially when they're clicking and playing great basketball.

And don't forget Spain with prime Rubio, who has been dominant in 2019 WC and 2021 Olympics, supported by the Gasol brothers, Fernandez, Hernangomez, Rodriquez etc- many of them getting older but some of the most distinguished international careers of anyone ever.

Oh and don't forget Argentina who brought the same team who won Silver in 2019, and the Aussies beat them by 39 points.

A mighty impressive effort by the 2021 Boomers!

And I agree- a mighty effort by 1996 to beat Croatia and come close to beating that Lithuanian group.

Reply #867225 | Report this post

Years ago

Hard to believe that was a quarter of a century ago...

It was the high point of a team assembled out of the AIS regime a decade before, most here would know Longley/Bradtke/Vlahov making the 88 Olympic team as teenagers.

Heal's 28 point game in Utah in the pre Olympic exhibition game gets most of the memories, but Andrew Gazes first half Vs USA is a treat to watch. It's hard to find the game one YT, I did see a French language broadcast on YT last year, but can't find it again.

Also to add, the ripping of Jensen, were you genuinely aware of his okay then?

His 95 season for the Falcons and 96 season for the Giants well and truly established him as an elite Australian player by then, very few would put Brett Maher above him at this stage.

He contracted Crohn's disease IIRC correctly around this time, the rumours surrounding it are quite unsavoury.

Reply #867237 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago

-I loved Tonny Jensen. I just like to poke fun at his boy band haircut but he was a deadset champion. That (as most Barnesy selections) was somewhat "controversial" as the backup SG spot (known usually as the, "I'm not really getting any minutes am I?" was always hotly contested in that era. Michael Johnson, Simon Kerle etc. There was never any clear cut guy to "back up"/not play behind Drewy.

The entire 93-98 era of Australian basketball gets slept on, it's because there's hardly any footage but they were unreal. The quality of play in the NBL, both locals and imports was phenomenal.

Even watching the '94 US vs Australia which is on YT indicates the skill level emerging. You had Tony Ronaldson giving Grandmama era Larry Johnson and almost peak Shawn Kemp with good seals and jump hooks!

As I mentioned - we knocked Croatia out. Croatia in 92 = Silver behind the "Dream Team"; Croatia in '94 = Bronze behind US and Russia. Croatia in '96 = 7th after running into the Smiths Chips Boomers.

Lithuania '92 = Bronze.

I don't really like highlighting individually great players to prove a point, as that's not what makes championship teams (contrary to what today's youth are being fed, with the consumerism that pervades the great game) but:

in addition to Sabonis, Lithuania had:

-Rimas Kurtiniatis. 6'5 wing that Townsville had as an import. To be a mid 90's non American NBL import was a big deal. It was a bit of a pioneer move, but also highlighted how good he was.

-Sarunas Marciulonis, 10 year NBA career, again in an era when non Americans in the Association was still a novelty. These guys weren't as glorified back then as the Ginobilis etc but they should have been - they were just as good.

and all the other starters like Karnisovas, Lukminas etc were all paying their trade in the absolute top Spain/Russian leagues. The qualify of that style of basketball in the mid 90s was amazing, it was truly "just below the NBA" or close to, and mid 90s NBA shits all over today's game as anyone would know LOL.

That's what the Smith Chips Boomers had to contend with, as well as having to leap frog the other nations that were tough, and in some cases had medalled before - Brazil, Greece, Argentina, Puerto Rico. In the 12 team field, only really Angola and Korea weren't up to World standard, but you had 10 teams all capable of medalling/upsetting a medal favourite.

Reply #867240 | Report this post

Years ago

Sabonis was brilliant and ahead of his time.

By the time he did play in the NBA, it was reported that a Dr said he'd be eligible to park in a disability access car park. That’s how limited his movement was.

I’ve followed the Boomer’s campaigns historically and 90s were more my era, but I think it’s a bit disrespectful to all to compare the eras. The Boomers have evolved. Other teams have evolved (and even changed with Euro borders/ nations changing. The game has evolved too.

Fun to speculate perhaps, but I think Mills’ and Gaze’s reactions speak most aptly for the nation and our basketball community.

Reply #867369 | Report this post

ME (he/kangaroo)  
Years ago

I've always thought the 96 team was underrated. But I also think the 2000 team is a bit overrated, at least in actual results. They dropped some dumb games.

Reply #867376 | Report this post

Years ago

From memory, Sabonis in his prime was like Kevin Durant but with an extra few centimetres and hungrier on the boards.

Let's not forget Toni Kukoc, who played with Jordan - an early version of KD who could play every position. I can’t remember if we played against him, but he was WC MVP around 1990 or something.

Reply #867382 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago

Box Score of the upset game vs Croatia

Vrankovic (stud) 40 minutes; Kukoc 39 minutes; Radja 15 minutes, could be nostalgia goggles but from memory, it was because he couldn't find his flow and was struggling to guard anyone from Vlahov, Ronaldson, Fisher to Dorge/Bradtke.

Here's the bronze medal game highlights

As UseTahoop states, '96 Sabonis was way way past his prime and still doing this.

1995 full game of 2x teams that the '96 Boomers lost to (Yugoslavia, Lithuania) to see what skill level we were up against

1988 Sabonis vs David Robinson

1986 pre injuries Sabonis

17 year old Sabonis vs Ralph Sampson

You still think "Luka's shown to be much better than Sabonis", LV?

Reply #867386 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago

Almost Yao Ming's height with Hakeem's mobility, Mutombo's shot blocking, Shaq's physicality, "stretch" range for his time, and Magic/Bird court vision and passing.

On a good day, maybe he would be so kind as to let Luka Doncic sniff his dirty jock strap...

Reply #867387 | Report this post

Travis 2nd Best  
Years ago


I do feel 2000 underachieved/choked a little but a lot has to be said of Barry Barnes' "coaching" - offense (if you can call, allowing Heal to chuck all game), and substitution/rotations.

Semifinal game vs France, plays a 7 man rotation.

Gaze 40 minutes, Heal 38 minutes.

Grace - DNP
Maher - 3 minutes
Cattalini - 3 minutes
NBA era Chris Anstey - 8 minutes.

Nice work Barnesy.

Heal 2 of 10, 5 assists: 4 turnovers. Defensive effectiveness: Not found.

I know he likes use the moniker "Hammer", but he really should go by Reverse C*ck Block or Screw because his defensive position openly encourages penetration.

Reply #867389 | Report this post

Years ago

Many thanks, Travis

Reply #867399 | Report this post

Years ago

So true - Barnes wasn't a good coach and Heal a non-defending chucker.

The Barnes/Heal mates act was sickening.

Reply #867402 | Report this post

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