Sue Bird, left, and Angel McCoughtry, right, hold gifts for the France team prior to a women's semifinal round basketball game on Thursday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

No one knows how or when the tradition started, yet before nearly every international basketball game teams exchange gifts after the national anthems are played. It could be something as simple as a pin or small banner or even hats like USA Basketball gives. 

It's more about the gesture then what the gift actually is.

"It's a sign of friendship," said Tamika Catchings, who has played in the past four Olympics for the U.S.

Danielle Page, who starred at Nebraska and helped Serbia win a bronze medal, said it was a little strange having the gift exchange before the game. 

"It's a little awkward because you go up and say good luck, good game, do you really mean it?" she said. "Like half the time you never see what they give you. You give it to the trainer so you never see it."

That said, Page did keep an eye on one gift she was given during the Olympics _ the USA Basketball hat she got before Serbia lost to the U.S. in the prelims.

"I made sure to track that one down," she said smiling. "Giving it to my father later."

The exchange can be traced back at least on the women's side to 1976 _ the first time women's basketball was played in the Olympics. 

"We definitely did exchange flags back then, at least the captain did," recalled Anne Meyers Drysdale, who was on the U.S. team that won silver that year..

 

France's Amel Bouderra holds a small banner for a gift exchange with United States players before a semifinal round basketball game (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

 

Other sports have copied the practice from time to time, but none of them have done it as consistently as basketball.

"There is something nice about it," FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann told the AP. "It's more than just that though. Seeing players raise their hands when they commit a foul. There's a sportsmanship to it."