The Olympics are special, there’s no doubt about it. Some of the greatest sports stories ever told come courtesy of the Olympic Games. From the Miracle on Ice to the Jamaican bobsled team, the Olympics have a knack for bringing out the best in people.
Of course, the Olympics aren’t all about team sports. Individual efforts from athletes like Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, and Usain Bolt are legendary. That being said, there’s just something about teams of players that make things that much more exciting. Seeing Michael Phelps win his individual medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was fun, but watching his team win the Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay, where Jason Lezak came from behind to beat the trash-talking French side, was absolutely thrilling.
It’s always tough to quantify what it means to be the greatest of all time. When it comes to Olympic teams, it really boils down to one of two things. The first is complete and total dominance. Being head and shoulders above the competition puts any team in the running for the GOAT. The second thing is underdog status. A team that scraps its way to the top, despite the fact that no one thinks they can do it, is also in the running. Most importantly, to be considered one of the greatest of all time, an Olympic team must win Gold.
15 15. 1988 U.S. Men’s Volleyball
When you think of the greatest teams of all time, volleyball might not be the first sport to come to mind. In 1988, the U.S. Men's team entered the Olympic tournament with a serious chip on their shoulders. During the 1984 campaign, they won Olympic gold in Los Angeles, knocking off Brazil in decisive fashion. However, the Soviets sat out the Olympics that year and many saw the American's victory as a fluke.
14 14. 2004 U.S. Women’s Soccer Team
The 1996, 2008, and 2012 U.S. Women's soccer teams could have all made this list easily as well, but it's the 2004 team that really stands out in the crowd. The lead-up to the 2004 games was already full of drama, as it was set to be the last hoorah for the fabled Fab Five. After their iconic 1999 World Cup win that saw Mia Hamm capture the heart of a nation, the Women's national team had disappointing showings in both the 2000 Olympics and 2003 World Cup.
13 13. 1976 Soviet Union Hockey Team
The Soviets were a dominating force throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Their hockey team, in particular, was considered nearly unbeatable. That is until a pesky team of American scrappers took them down in one of the greatest stories in sports history. If it wasn't for the Miracle on Ice, the Soviets would be much higher on this list.
12 12. 1980 U.S. Men's Hockey Team
The 1980 U.S. men's hockey team is not the most talented team of all time, not by a long shot, but they're one of the greatest nonetheless. That team played with more heart and conviction than any other. Between their underdog status, their raw skill, and the fact that they beat an unbeatable team, they easily earned their spot on this list.
11 11. 2008 U.S. Men's Basketball Team
Ever since professionals were allowed to play, the Americans have been the team to beat when it comes to Olympic basketball. It seems like more often than not, the Americans beat themselves in the Olympics (or in the case of 1972, the refs beat them). That being said, two U.S. basketball teams stand head and shoulders above the competition. One of those teams is the 2008 Beijing squad.
10 10. 1976 U.S. Men's and Women’s Swim Teams
There are quite a few amazing swim teams that could have made this list. The American men have dominated the pool for what seems like decades. The German women's teams of the 1970s were also particularly successful, but they were riddled with PEDs and, more importantly, beaten by a determined 1976 U.S. women's side. Despite several outstanding performances, the real standout from the 1976 Olympics was the U.S. women's 4X100m team.
That year, the U.S. men took down gold in 12 of 13 events, including both relays, while the German women claimed 11 of 13 gold. There were two team events for the women that year, the 4X100m freestyle relay and the 4X100 medley relay. Despite the fact that the German women were chock full of PEDs, the U.S. team still managed to beat them in the freestyle relay, destroying the previous world record time by four seconds.
9 9. 2014 Dutch Speed Skating Team
The Dutch speed skating team at the Sochi Olympics was about as dominating as they come. They were so good in fact, that many people suspected them of cheating in some way or another. The truth is, the Netherlands are really just obsessed with speed skating, especially long track speed skating. Throughout Olympic speed skating history, the Dutch have collected a staggering 105 long track medals.
8 8. 2012 U.S. Women’s Gymnastic Team
First there was the Magnificent Seven, then there was the Fierce Five. Truthfully, both teams deserve their spots on the greatest of all-time list. The difference between the two teams is that one struggled their way to the top, and the other dominated the path to the point that anything less than Gold was a disappointment.
7 7. U.S. Beach Volleyball's Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are arguably the most dominant duo in any Olympic sport. Their record on Olympic sand is simply unprecedented. As partners, they won three straight gold medals and only ever dropped one set in Olympic play. That kind of utter team dominance is completely unmatched throughout the history of the Olympics.
6 6. 1936 U.S. Men's Rowing Team
For some reason, the 1936 Olympics were held in Nazi Germany. The 1936 U.S. Men's rowing team is one of the greatest of all-time based almost entirely on circumstance. The German men were dominating rowing that year, making Hitler and the Third Reich proud.
5 5. 2000 Cuba Women’s Volleyball Team
Cuba usually doesn't make much of splash at the Olympics, with one major exception. Their women's volleyball team is one of the most consistently dominant teams in Olympic history. Between 1992 and 2000, they won every single major international competition, including three consecutive gold medals.
4 4. 2004 U.S. Softball Team
The dominance of the U.S. softball team at the 2004 Olympics is truly incredible. The team didn't just beat everyone, they destroyed them. Pitch by pitch, they utterly dismantled the competition. A perfect 9-0 record is only the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. softball team outscored their competition 51-1 and shut out the first eight teams they faced. The singular run scored against the Americans came in the gold medal game. An over-matched Australian side managed to squeak out one run in a 5-1 loss that gave the U.S. their third straight gold.
3 3. 2014 Canadian Women's Hockey Team
How do you do better than the three straight golds from the U.S. softball team? Four straight golds from the Canadian women's hockey team. While they might not have been quite as dominant, the Canadian women's hockey team still won gold in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, with a silver in 1998 to boot.
The Canadian team went into the 2014 Olympics in Sochi with a massive target on their back. Everyone wanted to take down the reigning champs, with an especially talented American squad poised to knock them off their pedestal. With less than a minute left in the gold medal game, the Americans were up by one.
2 2. 1928-1956 India Men’s Field Hockey Team
Field hockey might not be the first sport to come to mind when you think about the Olympics, especially for Americans. For India though, Olympic field hockey is a big deal. From 1928 to 1956, India's men's team won gold in every single Olympic games. Because of World War II, the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled, meaning that from 1928 to 1956, India won six straight Olympic golds in men's field hockey, instead of what would have likely been eight.
1 1. 1992 U.S. Men's Basketball Team
They're called the Dream Team for a reason. The 1992 U.S. men's basketball team was a collection of the best basketball players of all time. Led by Michael Jordan, they were never going to be called the underdogs. With Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and more, the Dream Team was truly a spectacle.
They backed up their star power with some seriously incredible numbers. Throughout the competition, they outscored their opponents by an average of 43.8 points. Croatia gave them their hardest test in the gold medal game, which the Americans won by only 32 points. Barkley led the way in scoring, averaging 18 points a game while shooting .875 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Jordan averaged 14.9 points a game on the road to becoming the greatest basketball player the world has ever seen. When the dust had settled, the American Dream Team was by far the greatest team the Olympics had ever seen.
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