The U.S. men’s basketball team had never lost to Australia. It had gone nearly 13 years without losing a game with an NBA-stocked roster. It was in the midst of the longest winning streak in team history.
The Americans went Down Under, and went down.
Australia beat the U.S. 98-94 before a crowd of more than 52,000 in Melbourne, an outcome that ended the Americans’ 78-game winning streak and cast major doubt on the team’s ability to capture a third consecutive World Cup in China.
“Nobody wins forever,” USA Basketball coach Gregg Popovich said.
The last time the Americans — counting major international tournaments and exhibitions with NBA players on the floor — lost a game was the semifinals of the 2006 world championships. The program has won gold in every competition since, including three straight in the Olympics and two consecutive World Cup titles.
But now, the gold standard of international basketball looks unusually vulnerable.