The U.S.A. men’s basketball team was upset by Nigeria Saturday evening in its first exhibition game ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, a stunning outcome even if the effects are more symbolic than impactful on the United States’ eventual gold medal hopes.
Nigeria defeated a Team U.S.A. roster stacked with All-N.B.A. players, 90-87, at Mandalay Bay Arena in Las Vegas. It was the first ever win by an African team over the U.S. men’s national team.
The loss drops Team U.S.A.’s record to 54-3 in exhibition games held since 1992, when N.B.A. players were first allowed to play in the Olympics. The team had not lost an exhibition game since 2019, a 98-94 upset by Australia ahead of the FIBA World Cup.
Only nine years ago, the United States beat Nigeria, 156-73, at the 2012 Olympics in London.
In Saturday’s stunner, Kevin Durant scored a team-high 17 points for Team U.S.A. Jayson Tatum had 15 points and Damian Lillard added 14.
The trio was held to 9 of 30 shooting and their teammates looked out of sync after only recently ending their N.B.A. postseasons following a short turnaround from the previous season. Players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry dropped out of consideration for the Olympics, however the roster is still stacked with players expected to win gold in Tokyo.
Nigeria’s roster includes a handful of N.B.A. players, including Chimezie Metu of the Sacramento Kings, Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miye Oni of the Utah Jazz. The team is coached by Mike Brown, a Golden State Warriors assistant.
Nigeria converted nearly half of its 40 three-point attempts against Team U.S.A.
Ike Iroegbu, who played at Washington State, made a three-pointer with just over a minute left to push Nigeria to an 88-80 lead. Durant responded with seven straight points. The Miami Heat’s Gabe Vincent, who scored a game-high 21 points, sank two free throws with 13.2 seconds left to help cement the upset as Team U.S.A. failed to execute a play out of a timeout called in the game’s final seconds.
“That loss means nothing if we don’t learn from it, but it can be the most important thing in this tournament for us to learn lessons from it,” U.S. head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters afterward.
Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton and Phoenix’s Devin Booker are set to join the three-time defending gold medal-winning roster at the conclusion of the N.B.A. finals.