Twenty years ago, the "Dream Team" celebrated at the Olympics with major blowouts that became emphatic statements, snatching basketball back from the rest of the world. However, the 2012 team was challenged in its gold medal game because Spain has a very good basketball team. Today's American players realize they can no longer simply show up and assume they'll win.
What this U.S. men's basketball team has done by winning the gold medal on Aug. 12, and over the last seven years, is truly a major feat. When you combine Sunday's 107-100 win over Spain with the gold medal victory in Beijing four years ago, you come to the realization that what Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and first-timer Kevin Durant have done is once again, place U.S. basketball at the top spot in the world.
Durant, one of the world's brightest basketball stars, and a native of Suitland, led the team with 30 points. James had 19 and seven boards, giving him a second gold medal to go along with the NBA title he won a couple months ago. Bryant, now the elder statesman, added 17 points and gave Spanish star Pau Gaso, his Los Angeles Lakers teammate, a big hug at the end.
"It's a heck of a thing," U.S. Coach Mike Krzyewski said. "I love the way my guys responded today."
This Olympics was not only the last for Krzyewski, who will return to Duke as head coach, and Bryant who will be 37 when the Rio Games begin, but it could be the last tournament in its current form. There has been some talk in basketball circles that, at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, teams would consist of players age 23 and under. No one associated with the American team seemed to be in favor of the idea.
"My plan is until told otherwise," Jerry Colangelo, director of USA Basketball said, "it's business as usual until something else happens."
Business as usual means the American team dominating the rest of the world. They beat their opponents by an average of 32.1 points. Even in the close games, spectators could sense that if the Americans needed a basket, Durant, Bryant, James or one of their teammates would come through.
"These guys are just fun to be around, all great teammates," Durant said. "They didn't care about nothing but winning. When you see that, that's just a joy."