Do NBA Players Play In The Olympics? (Find Out Here)

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The world of professional and amateur sports rarely interacts with each other, and things can become interesting when they do. NBA players are some of the best basketball teams in the world, and when the Olympics happen, many are interested to see whether or not they have made the pick.

NBA players are permitted to play in the Olympics after the restriction on them was specifically removed in 1988. At that stage, the only professional players not allowed to join the Olympics were NBA players, with many other countries already using professional players in their basketball teams.

While this was when the rules were lifted, this is not when NBA players were the first part of the US Olympic team. Further, the reasoning behind the ban being lifted is often misunderstood, as it was right after the US lost to the soviet team at the 1988 Olympics.

When Did NBA Players Start Playing In The Olympics?

The first year that NBA players were allowed to join the US Olympic basketball team was in 1922, the first Olympics after the ban was lifted. The team consisted of a mixture of NBA players and amateur players from other leagues, with many other social-political events allowing this.

When the rules were changed, the NBA was also not part of the organization that became USA Basketball, the governing figure for basketball in the US. The US representatives voted against the change to prevent the NBA from being included in this governing body.

It was only after the Olympics organizers changed the rules that the NBA was allowed to join the USA Basketball organization. Ultimately, the immorality of excluding only the NBA from the Olympics won over, and the rules were changed to ensure everyone had a chance to join.

Are There Professional Basketball Players In The Olympics?

For most of the Olympics, professional basketball players have been taking part in it, as many countries do not have a large enough amateur team to join. However, it should be noted that some countries only have amateur teams as they do not have a professional basketball league.

The US team usually consists of a dream team comprising different professional basketball league players. The US has several professional leagues to pull from, while the Olympics only allows one team to play.

Over the years, other countries have become more involved with their teams, as Japan and other countries have started their basketball leagues. This has meant that the Olympics have become more competitive, and someone that does not play basketball professionally may be too outclassed.

Why Can Pro NBA Players Play Basketball In The Olympics?

Owing to the rules being changed in 1988, the Olympics teams can now be a mixture of NBA players and other basketball leagues. Most often, the team sent to the Olympics comprises hand-selected individuals that are not just based on the athletes’ performance.

It should be noted that some top-paid athletes are often not selected specifically because of their demands for payment. Going to the Olympics is usually unpaid, with the honor of being chosen for the team and having all expenses paid for being your payment.

This is often why you will hear that Olympic athletes get sponsorships after they have won a gold medal while at the Olympics. Teams can be sponsored to go to the Olympics, but rarely are the athletes paid to attend the event, with the medals you get usually accompanied by prize money.

Why Weren’t NBA Players Allowed To Play Basketball In The Olympics?

The only reason that NBA wasn’t allowed into the US Olympic teams is because of restrictions it put on itself by the USA Basketball organization. These rules were enforced by the Olympic committee on the USA team to only allow amateur players from high school to college age.

This meant that every other country was using professional basketball players, while the US specifically prevented their professional players from joining. These rules were challenged several times by organizers in the USA, but it wasn’t until 1988 that the Olympic committee took a vote to overrule this.

Today, the USA Basketball organization prevents NBA players from participating in international competitions. Only allowing the players to join the Olympic team, usually with some protest, has questioned the validity of the teams sent to represent the US in these competitions.

Editorial credit: A.RICARDO /

How Do They Decide The Olympic Basketball Teams?

For national teams of other countries, the teams are usually chosen through a combination of choose teams that qualify through international competitions and qualifyings, with a seat reserved for the host country to enter their team if they choose to provide a team at all.

The US basketball team consists of a mixture of players chosen by the USA Basketball organization, amateurs that qualified, and players from the professional leagues. The training for the Olympics usually consists of measuring how well the team can play together using Olympic rules.

When playing in the Olympics, the teams need to have been chosen, showing that they can compete at the Olympic level. Many people assume that anyone can join the Olympics; however, this is not true as some sports require you and your team to qualify before competing.

Do NBA Players Get Paid To Play Basketball At The Olympics?

The Olympics pays no one competing in the Olympics or the country they represent, as it should be an entirely skill-based competition. However, teams and players of certain sports can be sponsored, with many of the equipment and travel expenses being paid for by sponsorships.

Many assume that all Olympic athletes are paid to participate in the competition no matter how well they do. However, often Olympians that qualify for the teams need to find funding on their own, with their country not always capable of funding their participation in the competition.

Often Olympians will get more from gaining a bronze medal than they have from sponsorships or their home country. This is also why you may see gold medal Olympians coming home or going to other countries on sponsorship deals with companies looking for representatives.


The NBA has been part of the Olympic basketball team for over 30 years, and the league’s players have helped to bring home several gold medals. When considering the team and how they play, we recommend considering each athlete’s hard work.

Just remember, the unknown athletes often have had to prove themselves several times more than those who are known!


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