Future NBA power forward Charles Barkley played for the US at the World University Games in 1983, and Yao Ming for China in 2001.
Five years after her amazing seven perfect 10s for Romania at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Nadia Comaneci won five University Games gymnastics golds.
The 24th summer version of the World University Games, which begin this week outside the Thai capital and end on Aug. 18, have always been billed by organizers as the second-biggest multisports competition after the Olympics.
With the Beijing Olympics opening a year from this week the University Games, which are held every two years, take on increased importance for the record 6,000 to 7,000 athletes from more than 150 countries who will gather in Bangkok.
They'll be outnumbered by more than 10,000 police on security patrol around the capital. The opening ceremonies are set for today at Bangkok's 60,000-seat Rajamangala National Stadium.
Competition began yesterday in soccer and basketball. Thailand beat Canada 4-1 in men's soccer while China, which will host the women's World Cup in September, beat Britain 1-0 and Brazil defeated the Russian Federation 6-2 in women's play.
Japan and Germany were among the men's basketball winners while Thailand and the US won women's matches. The first 15 of 236 gold medals to be awarded over the next 10 days will be handed out tomorrow.
The competition has 12 compulsory sports, including athletics, gymnastics, judo, diving, water polo, table tennis, tennis and volleyball, and several optional sports chosen by the host country. Thai officials have included golf and taekwondo.
Competition is open to student athletes between the ages of 17 and 28 who attend school or have not been out of university or its equivalent for more than a year.
The athletes will be subject to drug testing -- a 38-page doping control booklet spells out all the requirements for doping tests -- random checks as well as all compulsory tests for gold-medal winners and world-record setters. Officials haven't said how many athletes overall will be tested.
There will be about 150 US athletes in Bangkok. University teams will make up the US basketball sides -- the women's team, which beat Latvia 58-55 in overtime yesterday, is from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; the men are from the University of Northern Iowa.
Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobsen said the lengthy road trip to Thailand will be the team's best possible training camp.
"It will be a great learning experience for our team as we prepare for the 2007-2008 season," Jacobsen said on the university's Web site. "Being able to play outstanding international competition, in meaningful games, will be invaluable for us."
In 18 World University Games, the US has won 13 gold medals in men's basketball while posting an overall record of 125-7. The 2005 US team, coached by Villanova's Jay Wright, won the gold medal, defeating Ukraine in the championship game 85-70, while the women have won six golds, including 2005 in Turkey.
Barkley, who attended Auburn University and went on to win two gold medals with "dream" US Olympic teams in 1992 and 1996, could only help the 6-1 Americans to a bronze in Edmonton, Canada in 1983.
Comaneci's career was going in the other direction when she appeared in her home city of Bucharest in 1981, and that was to be her last major international event. Affected by personal and coaching problems and injuries, she retired three years later.