USA basketball: Remembering when NBA stars were baffled by New Zealand’s haka

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The men's Olympic basketball tournament gets underway at the Saitama Super Arena on Sunday, but the competition will be missing one of its more compelling nations - as a throwback video that has recently gone viral has shown.

Back in February, Basketball New Zealand withdrew its national side, known as the 'Tall Blacks', from qualifying for the Olympic tournament. Increased costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic made it too expensive for the country's board to send its players over to Serbia to compete for the right to make it to the Games.

Just like that, New Zealand's basketball Olympic dreams for Tokyo 2020 went up in smoke. It was a cruel way for the team to be ruled out of contention and the event itself will be poorer for their absence.

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While New Zealand were never expected to challenge for medals even if they had made it to the Games, their unique pre-game homage to their roots and heritage always makes for a fascinating visual.

Footage captured moments before New Zealand's FIBA Basketball World Cup match with Team USA in 2014 has resurfaced, causing quite a stir among fans on Twitter.

In the clip, the New Zealanders stare down their American opponents before launching into their traditional haka dance. Stomping the court and chanting in unison it really is quite the sight.

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For their part, the USA team - featuring current NBA stars James Harden, Derrick Rose and Steph Curry - look absolutely bewildered by what is unfolding in front of them.

You can see their reaction for yourself here...

The video was re-posted by ESPN SportsCenter last night - and has attracted plenty of reaction.

"They came to step, the US came to hoop," pointed out one observer.

Another joked: "The cut to Harden is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time."

"Rose's face has me tearing every time," announced a third fan.

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Ultimately, though, the USA would go on to win the game 98-71 - something that many Americans were keen to bring up.

"Of course, the US won by 27..." stated one of a number of replies.

"They had no energy to play basketball after this performance," read a final comment.

Team USA kick off their 2021 Olympic campaign against France this weekend - and are heavy favourites to return home with the gold medal.

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