When you mention Team USA in international competitions, all you can think about is invincibility. A team filled with NBA stars that looks like no team in the world can beat it. In most of the games, the outcome is known before the jump ball, but teams can give them a run for their money every once in a while. Puerto Rico did a lot more than that.
It was August 15th, 2004, as Puerto Rico and USA faced off in a group game. Team USA came in the game as heavy favorites but overlooked Puerto Rico had other plans. They went on a crazy run in the 2nd quarter and managed to build a 22-point lead at halftime. From then on, Puerto Rico protected their margin till the end of the game and won in convincing fashion 92-73. Team USA looked like they were trying to flip the switch and take the game back over, but it just wasn’t working as they couldn’t escape out of the hole they dug themselves in. Puerto Rico was playing too well. Their “secret”?
Carlos Arroyo was playing out of his mind, killing the USA defense with his flashy style of play, penetrating the lane, dishing it out to his teammates, and hitting mid-range jumpers from everywhere. Arroyo finished the game with 24 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals while shooting an efficient 9-16 from the floor. He had excellent help with Larry Ayuso and Eddie Casiano shooting lights out along with him.
Arroyo was looking dominant and confident out there, trash-talking the USA stars. Iverson, Duncan, LeBron, and company couldn’t respond that night. Puerto Rico would eventually be bounced out in the quarter-finals by Italy, while the USA finished a disappointing third. It was the first Olympic defeat for the USA basketball team since playing with NBA players, as it marked an end of Larry Brown‘s era. Mike Krzyzewski took over the team after the 2004 Olympics, as he is there to this day, without suffering a single loss in Olympic competitions so far. That fact shows how unique this game was.
Arroyo played for the Utah Jazz at the time, as he had a solid career in the NBA and a good one in the Euroleague. He would go on to retire from professional basketball in 2019.