Basketball at the 1936 Summer Olympics

Basketball at the 1936 Summer Olympics was the first appearance of the sport of basketball as an official Olympic medal event. The tournament was played between 7 August and 14 August 1936 in Berlin, Germany. 23 nations entered the competition, making basketball the largest tournament of the team sports, but Hungary and Spain withdrew, meaning 21 competed.

1st Olympic Basketball Tournament
Berlin 1936
Tournament details
Olympics1936 Summer Olympics
Host nationGermany
DurationAugust 7–14
Men's tournament
1 Gold medalists  United States
2 Silver medalists Canada
3 Bronze medalists  Mexico
← 1904 (demonstration)  London 1948 →
Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball

The International Olympic Committee and International Basketball Federation, which is the governing body of international basketball, used the 1936 tournament to experiment with outdoor basketball. Lawn and dirt tennis courts were used for the competition, but this caused problems when the weather was adverse, especially during the final of the tournament.

The medals were awarded by James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. The United States won its first gold medal, while Canada and Mexico won silver and bronze, their only medals in basketball, as of 2020.


Gold Silver Bronze
  United States (USA)
Sam Balter
Ralph Bishop
Joe Fortenberry
Tex Gibbons
Francis Johnson
Carl Knowles
Frank Lubin
Art Mollner
Donald Piper
Jack Ragland
Willard Schmidt
Carl Shy
Duane Swanson
Bill Wheatley
  Canada (CAN)
Gordon Aitchison
Ian Allison
Art Chapman
Chuck Chapman
Edward Dawson
Irving Meretsky
Doug Peden
James Stewart
Malcolm Wiseman
Stanley Nantais
  Mexico (MEX)
Carlos Borja
Víctor Borja
Rodolfo Choperena
Luis de la Vega
Raúl Fernández
Andrés Gómez
Silvio Hernández
Francisco Martínez
Jesús Olmos
José Pamplona
Greer Skousen

Note: The International Olympic Committee medal database shows only these players as medalists. They all played at least one match during the tournament. The reserve players are not listed as medalists.





Third round onwards

Third roundQuarter-finalsSemi-finalsGold medal match
  United States56
  United States25
14 August
  United States19
  Poland15 Bronze medal match
 14 August
  Poland  Mexico26
bye  Poland12

Fifth-place classification

Classification semifinal 5th place game
  Philippines 32
  Italy 14
  Philippines 32
  Uruguay 23

First round


Winners advanced to the second round, while losers competed in the first consolation round for another chance to move on.

Byes: Philippines, United States   (drawn against Spain, who withdrew) and   Czechoslovakia (drawn against Hungary, who withdrew).

First consolation round


Winners returned to the main competition for the second round, while losers were eliminated.

  • Uruguay 17–10 Belgium
  • China 45–38 France
  • Egypt 33–23 Turkey

Byes: Brazil, Germany and Poland

Second round


Winners advanced to the third round. Losers competed in the second consolation round for another chance to move on.

  • Philippines 32–30 Mexico
  • Japan 43–31 Poland
  • Uruguay 36–23 Egypt
  • Peru 29–21 China
  • United States 52–28 Estonia
  • Italy 58–16 Germany
  • Switzerland 25–12 Czechoslovakia
  • Chile 23–18 Brazil
  • Canada 34–23 Latvia

Second consolation round

  • Poland def. Latvia, 28–23
  • Brazil def. China, 32–14
  • Mexico def. Egypt, 32–10
  • Czechoslovakia def. Germany, 20–9

Bye: Estonia

Third round


The third round was the first to cause automatic elimination for losers, with no consolation round. Winners advanced to the quarterfinals.

Philippines   39–22   Estonia
Scoring by half: 21–4, 18–18
Chile   19–27   Italy
Scoring by half: 12–16, 7–11
Mexico   28–22   Japan
Scoring by half: 12–8, 16–14
Switzerland   9–27   Canada
Scoring by half: 1–13, 8–14
Uruguay   28–19   Czechoslovakia
Scoring by half: 14–8, 14–11
Brazil   25–33   Poland
Scoring by half: 10–17, 15–16

Byes: United States and Peru



Winners of the quarterfinals advanced to the medals round, with losers playing in classification matches.

  • United States 56–23 Philippines
  • Mexico 24–17 Italy
  • Canada 41–21 Uruguay

Bye: Poland (Peru withdrew from the Olympic Games to protest the decision of the Olympic Committee and FIFA in the football tournament).

Classification 5–8


Preliminary match

  • Philippines 32–14 Italy

Bye: Uruguay (Peru withdrew from the competition - see above).

Fifth place match

  • Philippines 33–23 Uruguay

Medals round



August 13
United States   25–10   Mexico
Scoring by half: 13–2, 12–8
Poland   15–42   Canada
Scoring by half: 6-23, 9-19

Bronze medal match

August 14
  Mexico   26–12   Poland
Scoring by half: 23–8, 3–4


August 14
  United States   19–8   Canada  
Scoring by half: 15–4, 4–4
Pts: Fortenberry 8
Berlin, Germany
Attendance: 900+

The final was played in driving rain, turning the court into a quagmire such that it was impossible to dribble, while the conditions kept scoring to a minimum: highest scorer in the game was Joe Fortenberry of the United States, with eight points. In addition, almost all of the nearly 1,000 in attendance had to stand in the rain throughout the final, as there were virtually no seats for spectators.


 1936 Olympic Basketball champions 
United States
First title

Participating nations


For the team rosters see: Basketball at the 1936 Summer Olympics – Men's team squads.

Each country was allowed to enter one team of 14 players and they all were eligible for participation; however, only seven were allowed to dress for competition at any one game.

A total of 199(*) basketball players from 21 nations competed at the Berlin Games:

  •   Belgium (8 – from a squad of 14)
  •   Brazil (8 – from a squad of 10)
  •   Canada (9 – from a squad of 14)
  •   Chile (7 – from a squad of 11)
  •   Republic of China (13 – from a squad of 14)
  •   Czechoslovakia (12 – from a squad of 12)
  •   Egypt (7 – from a squad of 10)
  •   Estonia (8 – from a squad of 11)
  •   France (11 – from a squad of 14)
  •   Germany (10 – from a squad of 14)
  •   Italy (13 – from a squad of 14)
  •   Japan (8 – from a squad of 11)
  •   Latvia (7 – from a squad of 11)
  •   Mexico (11 – from a squad of 11)
  •   Peru (9 – from a squad of 13)
  •   Philippines (9 – from a squad of 12)
  •   Poland (10 – from a squad of 14)
  •   Switzerland (8 – from a squad of 13)
  •   Turkey (8 – from a squad of 10)
  •   United States (14 – alternating squads of seven players)
  •   Uruguay (9 – from a squad of 13)

Hungary and Spain withdrew before playing a match.

(*) NOTE: There are only players counted, which participated in one game at least.

Not all reserve players are known.



Note: Hungary and Spain withdrew before competition started


  1. ^ (in Italian)Un viaggio all’interno di questi Ottanta anni Archived October 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.