Four years after their gold-medal game thriller on the 20th anniversary year of the famed Dream Team, the U.S. men's basketball team will travel to Barcelona to play what will be to many more than just an exhibition game against Spain.
"For certain, Spain looks at us as the team they want to knock off. I mean we're the defending gold medalist and they have big aspirations and they have a very talented team, and that's their goal and objective. And our goal is to repeat," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Friday. "So it will be interesting."
The July 24 game is the highlight of the Americans' five-game, pre-Olympic schedule, which Colangelo called the most challenging and ambitious since he took over the program in 2005.
The Americans also will play Argentina, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, on July 22 in Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi.
The Dream Team, considered the best basketball ever, dominated Olympic play en route to a gold medal there in 1992, the first games featuring NBA players.
Things have gotten tougher since for the Americans, who beat back a fierce challenge from Spain to reclaim their first gold medal since 2000 with a 118-107 victory in Beijing four years ago. The Spanish remain the Americans' biggest challengers and are conceding nothing on their home floor.
"Jerry, let the best team win," Spanish basketball president José Luis Saez told Colangelo at a press conference to announce the plans.
The Olympics start just three days later in London, and the U.S. and Spain will be expected to meet again for the championship on Aug. 12.
"I think it's going to be a good starting point and a good preparation for the Olympics," Spain center Marc Gasol said of the exhibition game. "But we have to remember that's just preparation. The real deal will be London."
With a new logo and new uniforms, the U.S. will be bringing back good old memories. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and the rest of the Dream Team, elected to the Hall of Fame two years ago, brought the sport to a new level of worldwide interest as they rolled through Barcelona.
"I think that's where it all started, in Barcelona in '92," Colangelo said.
The U.S. will open training camp in Las Vegas on July 6 and will play its first exhibition against the Dominican Republic on July 12 at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Americans will host Brazil in Washington on July 16 in a doubleheader with the women's teams, before facing Britain on July 19 in Manchester, England.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.