USA Basketball on top of the World
By Leland Stein III
LONDON – The United States Women’s and Men’s Senior National Basketball teams have proven that the round ball is truly American’s game. In spite of the fact international teams had over 20 players playing in the NBA, as opposed to the 1882 Dream Team having on 6 NBA players on international teams. The USA Basketball foundation and organization is firmly planted on solid ground and during the 2012 Olympic Games it once again proved that the best basketball in the world is played every year right here in the NBA.
The linchpin behind the USAQ Men’s resurgence has been the inclusion of Jerry Colangelo as the Managing Director of USA Basketball National Senior National team in 2005. Before his involvement Colangelo confidently rebuilt the program from the bottom up, obtaining the involvement of the NBA’s top players (Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James) and naming Duke University’s Hall of Fame mentor Mike Krzyzewski as the USA National Team head coach. In the 2004 Olympics the USA Men earned a bronze medal and in the 2006 FIBA World Championships the US Men earned another bronze.
“Coach K, LeBron and I met in Las Vegas to discuss being a part of the US team,” Anthony told me. “He said it would take a commitment, but in the end it would be worth the effort. LeBron and I are the only one’s remaining from the original teams in 2004. We endured the ups and downs and now we have put together a system that works.”
Added James: “Coach K and I have been a part of the whole USA rebuilding process. We share the same Olympic tract and that makes this win even that more special. I made a commitment to be a part of this. It was a long journey to get to 2008 and now 2012, but eight years later we are back on top.”
Through the solidifying efforts of Colangelo and Krzyzewski along with the commitments of Anthony and James, and, the wooing of Bryant in 2007, the foundation of USA Men’s Basketball is entrenched. In the 2012 Olympic Games Final, a rematch with Spain, young upstart Kevin Durant scored 30 points in a contest that featured 16 lead changes and six tied scores no matter, the U.S held off Spain for a 107-100 win to capture the Olympic gold medal.
While Anthony and James earned a second gold medal in a third Olympic appearance; three more were members of the gold-medal winning team in 2008, Bryant, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Playing in their first Olympics were Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis, Durant, James Harden, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Andre Iguodala.
“It was very emotional,” Bryant said of his 2012 gold medal. “You just kind of think back on the journey, so to speak. Being here for your last go-round, wearing USA on your chest, it’s very emotional.”
Meanwhile, for the USA Women it was business as usual. Since the inclusion of the women in Olympic Basketball in 1976, where the Soviet Union won the first two Games, the captured its unprecedented fifth-straight Olympic gold (dating back to 1996), a feat never before accomplished in any women’s traditional team sport, the USA women have compiled a 41-game Olympic winning streak that began with the 1992 bronze medal game.
This time around the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team posted a 86-50 win over France at North Greenwich Arena in London, England.
“You know, you go into every game thinking that there’s going to be some things that you have to do, and if you do those things you’re going to have a chance you can win it,” said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach. “France was probably playing as well as anytime I’ve ever seen them, since I’ve been the coach.”
“I think that this is just so sweet to get the second one,” said Candace Parker. “You can stumble on a championship once, but it’s really hard to do it twice. And for USA Basketball to do it five times in a row, that’s truly special.”
The gold medal is a third for Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings. While Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Swin Cash, and Parker also earned their second gold. Tina Charles, Asjha Jones, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Mooremand Lindsay Whalen all got their first gold.