All the way, we were waiting for somebody to give the United States basketball team a game. Nobody had. Greece, the last team to beat the U.S. in international play, got ripped by 33. Spain, the world champion, lost by 37. Argentina, the defending Olympic champion, was battered by just 20.Say what you will about The Original Dream Team, but I'm much more impressed with this squad and the way they've handled themselves, given the level of competition. No, they're not the 92' squad, and never will be, but who is?
Of all of them, only Spain got a second chance, in the gold medal match. And boy, did they give the Americans - and the world - a game.
But only one of these teams had Kobe Bryant. And that was the team that won.
With a young and talented team on the floor - Kobe, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh - Kobe was the alpha dog. He drove for a pull-up jumper in the lane. He fed Deron Williams for a three-pointer. He drove and fed Dwight Howard for a basket. He hit a three of his own, and the lead was back to 101-92.
Spain never stopped; they are a marvelous team. But Kobe hit a three-pointer, plus the foul that disqualified scorer Rudy Fernandez, to make it 107-99. With the score 108-104, Wade hit a three off a LeBron drive to push the lead back to seven. And in the final 90 seconds, Kobe scored again for a 113-105 lead. That was the end. USA 118, Spain 107, and Born in the USA played in the arena.
If nothing else, this team proved that despite what all the critics say, the modern day athlete has just as much pride, patriotism, and will to win as the old-schoolers. You might argue that this team represented the country even better than the 92' team, given their constant appearances in support of other Olympians. MJ never did that. Oh yeah, and MJ also pulled that stunt with the flag. Lebron, say what you will about him, would never have the balls to pull that stunt.
So let's all agree that the 92 Dream Team would have dusted these guys off the court. No complaint here, I'm with you. But when you consider the level of competition, the fact that we didn't send our best team, and the end result (bling!), it's hard not to be proud of these guys.
Well done, fellas. Well done.
Question: Did you manage to see any of the games this year, or did the time difference throw you off?
U.S. all-stars get their golden redemption [National Post]