After 8 years if embarrassment, the United States’ Mens’ Olympic Basketball Team is back on top. While most of the country slept this morning, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and company squeaked out a 118-107 win over Spain to capturethe gold medal. Dwayne Wade scored 27 points and Kobe added 20 in a hard-fought, offensive game in which the US led by only 2 points with a couple minutes remaining. The US beat Spain by 37 points earlier in the Olympics and most people expected a similar result in the gold medal game. Spain had different ideas however. They came out ready to play and never let up. As a team, the Spaniards shot 51.4% from the field and 47.1% from 3-point range. They out-rebounded the US 37-31 and had only one fewer assist then the Gold Medal Winners. Pau Gasol had 21 points for Spain while Rudy Fernandez had 22 points. In what was supposed to be a celebration game for the US, Spain nearly pulled the upset of the Olympics.
As I look back on this gold medal run for the US team I have to wonder, why was this final game so close? Except for a preliminary game against Australia, the Americans destroyed every other team they met except for last morning’s game. They beat this Spanish team by 37 points earlier in the games and Spain was missing Jose Calderon this time. There is one glaring difference between the gold medal game and every other game the US played. The US took the final game for granted. Theystopped their throttling defense and yes, Spain shot the lights out, but they also had more wide open jumpers than any team that has played the US so far. It shouldn’t have been close, but it was. Kobe saved the team from another embarrassing upset by scoring 13 key points in the 4th quarter, including a four-point play in the final minutes of the game.
In the end though, the US is back on top. Even with a lackluster defensive effort in the final game, the US succeeded in capturing their first gold medal since 2000. They have the right to celebrate and be proud. The US is back on top, but once again I have to ask, what are we celebrating? The US brought the best dozen basketball players in the world and had to ESCAPE Spain. Either the US played badly or a bigger movement is sweeping the globe. Basketball is no longer just an American sport. It is massively popular in China, Spain, and the rest of the world in general. Every year will get tougher. More foreign players will come to the NBA and foreign leagues will continue to grow and get better. There is an influx of new talent in the world and the monoply that Americans once had on basketball no longer exists. Just like soccer, basketball is now a worldwide sport and Americans better get used to the idea that not just are foreigners going to play basketball, they are going to win as well.