American Hoops


American Hoops

U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball from Berlin to Beijing

Carson Cunningham

528 pages
21 photographs, 17 tables


January 2010


$40.00 Add to Cart

July 2012


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Those who avidly followed the on-court acrobatics and off-court celebrity of the “Dream Team” in Barcelona in 1992 would hardly recognize what passed as basketball fifty-six years earlier, when the United States first played the game in the 1936 Olympics. In those early days of men’s Olympic basketball, many teams lacked basic skills, games were played in the pouring rain, only seven players could suit up, and the rules allowed only two substitutions and no time-outs. How this slow, low-scoring sport became the breakneck game that enraptures millions worldwide is the story of American Hoops.
In this fascinating history of Olympic basketball on the world stage and behind the scenes, Carson Cunningham presents a kaleidoscopic picture of the evolution into the twenty-first century of one of America’s most popular sports. From clashes between celebrated egos and thrilling action on the court to the intense rivalries of the Cold War and technological advances in everything from television to sports equipment off the court, American Hoops follows the fortunes of Olympic basketball, in the United States and internationally, as it developed and emerged as one of the most challenging and entertaining sports in the world.
Cunningham traces how the modifications made by the International Olympic Committee and the International Basketball Federation have transformed the game of basketball over the years, from the Berlin to the Beijing Olympics. His book offers a remarkable view of the changing world through the prism of Olympic sport.

Author Bio

Carson Cunningham played basketball at Purdue University and professionally in the Continental Basketball Association and in two leagues overseas. He currently teaches history at DePaul University.


"With so much scope to this work, so many interesting nuggets of information, so much careful research—this is a must read especially for fans of the hoop game."—

"Cunningham provides a thoroughly researched account of how basketball has become one of the most audacious, dominant sports in the world."—M. E. Beagle, Choice

"Cunningham has produced a comprehensive history that insightfully chronicles the evolution of the United States Olympic basketball team in a changing world."—Chad Carlson, International Journal of the History of Sports

"Relying extensively on interviews with a vast array of former Olympic coaches and players, Cunningham weaves a rich tapestry exploring the relationship of sport and politics that brings the excitement of Olympic basketball to life."—Katz Miltons, Journal of Sport History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

List of Tables


1. American Hoops Help Establish the International Standard in Berlin

2. U.S. Basketball Advances the Game in Postwar London

3. Cold War Basketball's Opening Salvo in Helsinki

4. The Russell Model Revolutionizes the International Game in Melbourne

5. Basketball Accelerates as Robertson, Lucas, and West Run through Rome

6. In Liberal, Postwar Tokyo, Teamwork, Television, and a Cold War Tilt for Gold

7. Haywood Shines as Satellites, Cable, and Shoes Mature in Mexico City

8. Mayhem in Munich 

9. Trademark Speed Returns in Montreal, Then Politics Intrude in Moscow

10. Air Jordan Arrives and The General Delivers in Atlanta

11. Oddities in Seoul Open the Lane for the Dream Team

12. Basketball Bedlam in Barcelona

13. From Underrated Greatness in Atlanta to the Gap Closed in Athens

14. Reclamation in Beijing