For 3 years the USA Men's Basketball team kept one goal: to win Olympic Gold. Anything less would be considered a failure. When people said it couldn't be done, they worked harder. After years of embarassment, Team USA needed to redeem themselves. Jerry Colangelo proved to be their savior. He stepped on board as the National Director of USA Basketball, and put together a team of stars he knew could coexist as one. Since their last victory in the Sydney Games of 2000, USA players had been criticized that they couldn't play together. It was perceived that their egos and shoe deals were of much higher importance to them than their country. But many NBA stars refused to fall into that stereotype. Colangelo found those stars, and brought them together in 2006 to save USA Basketball. Last night, their 3 year journey came to a close. But not until after their dream to redeem, had become a reality.
That reality didn't come easy though. It was a long commitment that asked USA players to give up their summers and offseasons. With the international level of competition as high as ever, Team USA could no longer get away with throwing a few stars together a couple weeks before the Olympics. The international teams had been playing together for years, and the international game was much different than the NBA game. For these reasons, the gap that had once separated USA teams from their opponents by 40 to 60 points was narrowed to 2 or 3.
But this year Team USA came out with a fire and a determination to prove themselves. They swept their pool and cruised past their quarter and semifinal matches. In those 7 games, they won by an average of 30.3 points per game. It appeared the US dominance was back. But there was still one more hurdle to leap. Team USA had to take down the World Champion, Spain. And they knew Spain would be out for revenge of Team USA's 37 point route of them just a week before.
Team USA was right. Spain did come to play. At one point both Spain and the US were shooting at around 70% from the field well into the first quarter. Both teams came out firing.
With Lebron and Kobe in foul trouble, Wade and Paul stepped up. Paul kept the offense moving. He found the open guys, got to the rim, and drew fouls. Wade was a spark off the bench as usual. He outhustled everyone and caught fire from the field.
Both teams went back and forth for the first half. Team USA found itself in its biggest deficit of the tournament, trailing by 5 at one point, but they always responded. The game really lacked any defensive play whatsoever. USA led 38-31 after one, and 69-61 at the half.
USA held a slim lead for most of the second half. Every time Spain made a run, USA responded. With just over 3 minutes remaining, Bryant converted a 4-point play that seemed to put the game out of reach. He held a finger to his lips, notioning to the raucous Spain crowd it was time to quiet down. Spain then answered with back-to-back baskets by Juan Carlos Navarro and Carlos Jimenez to cut the deficit to just 4 with two and half minutes to play. Wade countered with the final dagger, burying a 3 on the next possession. A few free throws later, Team USA finally felt that redemption. A redemption they worked three years for.
How might you ask did USA accomplish this feat of redemption? Teamwork. They all played with the same golden mindset: It's not the names on the back of our jerseys that matter, it's the 3 letters on the front.
Image taken from Yahoo! Sports