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USA Basketball

I fear that the great accomplishment of USA Basketball will pass without the recognition that it deserves. This is a great team; one of the greatest in history, yet these guys hardly receive any press. USA Basketball has had some hard times of late in international play. Despite having a team of great players, they failed to win the gold medal in the 2004 Olympics (Argentina won it) and then at the world championships of 2006 again they failed to win it all (Spain this time). So the narrative that shallow journalists came up with this year was that this was the "redeem" team, as if the USA were "supposed" to be the best basketball team in the world every year. Well, there are a couple of problems with this scenario.

First of all, the international (FIBA) rules aren't the same as NBA rules. The games are shorter, more physical contact is allowed (screens that would be illegal in the NBA are the norm in FIBA), and the 3-point line is much closer. I was watching a game between Spain and Lithuania, and Spain would run this same pick and roll time after time, and I kept wondering why the refs didn't call the illegal screens ... international rules. Plus, international players are getting better and better (think of NBA all-stars Manu Ginobilli of Argentina, Dirk Niwitzki of Germany, Yao Ming of China, etc.). So I never bought into this idea that USA basketball was failing because of a bunch of ball hog superstars who didn't know how to play as a team. The '04 team, for example, featured Tim Duncan, one of the most selfless players in the game, and one of the game's best players, and still they didn't get it done. Allen Iverson, supposedly one of the most selfish players, was in fact, one of the most effective players in Greece in '04. So don't be blaming the players. The fact of the matter is, that these guys had very little time to play together and get a feel for each others' games, while their opposition had been playing together for a long time.

All of which makes this year's triumph that much sweeter. This was a fantastic group of players, led by Lebron James. Lebron set the tone and the team followed. Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, Chris Bosch, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Michael Redd, Chris Paul, Carlos Boozer, Tayshaun Prince. These guys forgot about the fact they were superstars and got down to business as a team. The chemistry was fantastic and their sportsmanship was impeccable. And they got the job done, going undefeated and bringing back the gold.

But where are the props that they deserve? The games aired on cable channels at 8:00 am. The gold medal game aired live at 2:15 in the morning. ESPN couldn't show video clips (why not?), just still photos. My opinion is that this team, probably the second greatest basketball team ever assembled (after the '92 team with Jordan, Magic, Barkley, Drexler, and Bird) didn't get much coverage or respect. But they certainly deserved it.

Thank you, Lebron, Kobe, Dwayne, Carmelo, and the rest. You guys rule the world of basketball, and you do it with style and class.




May 2018



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