Gold Redeemed

Photo: ESPN

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. Continue reading “Gold Redeemed”

Phelps Dream Still Alive

Photo: ESPN

It one of the most improbable, amazing, and utterly incomprehensible comebacks in not just the history of swimming, but the history of swimming, US swimmer Jason Lezak kept Michael Phelps’ dream of eight gold medals in one Olympics alive Monday morning. It was the final of the 4 x 100 meter and Phelps was going for his second gold medal of the Olympics. Many forecasted that this would be the race that would stand between Phelps and history. The US team consisted of four world-class swimmers in Phelps, Lezak, Garret Weber-Gale, and Cullen Jones. Phelps led off for the US team, but when he finished his 100 meters, the United States sat in second behind a strong showing by Australia. As Weber-Gale finished off his 100 meters, the US had taken the lead by a slim margin, with the French coming on fast. Then came Jones, who lost significant time in his swim and left the US with almost no chance at gold.

Lezak entered the pool six-tenths of a second behind French swimmer Alain Bernard, who had stated earlier that the French were going to “smash” the Americans. The fast swimmer in the world at the 100m freestyle and with a big lead, Bernard was all but certainly going to make that promise come true. Bernard even began gaining ground on Lezak until he was a full body-length ahead of him, an insurmountable distance in swimming. Then, like a switch was turned on, Lezak started to fly. Bernard tightened up and the arena grew louder with people muttering “could he actually do this”. Ten meters to go and Bernard still held a significant lead on Lezak, but Lezak was not about to give up. He continued gaining ground and reached his hand out to the wall as far as possible, touching it just eight-hundredths of a second before the Frenchman, giving the US the victory. Lezak and his teammates erupted, screaming at the top of their lungs and pumping their fists into the air. Phelps was ecstatic, realizing that he had just won gold in his toughest event and the path was now clear for him to make history. Continue reading “Phelps Dream Still Alive”

The Redeem Team

Photo: NBA.com

It has been eight years since the United States won gold in men’s basketball and this year’s team is making sure that that drought ends. Led by Kobe Bryant on defense and Dwayne Wade on the offensive end, this team has demolished its opponents in its first three exhibitions. Their average margin of victory has been 30 points, including a 36 point victory over Lithuania and a 32 point crushing of Turkey. Even more remarkable than the final score though, is how this team has played. Its defense has been nothing less than phenomenal. Kobe Bryant has embodied this defensive intensity as he has picked out the opponent’s best player and stuck to him. In US’s game against Lithuania, Kobe chose to guard European star Sarunas Jasikevicius, who scored 28 points in Lithuania’s victoryover the United States in the 2004 games. Kobe shut down Jasikevicius, holding him to just 9 points on 2 of 8 shooting.

Kobe has shown the same competitive nature, the Jordan-esque instinct that made many people expect the Lakers to beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals. However, unlike the NBA Finals, Kobe is now surrounded by other superstars. He can focus entirely on defense and not worry about his offense. He doesn’t have to sprint up and down the base line, running off picks just to get an open look. With so many other excellent players on the court, Kobe can’t be double-teamed. No one on Team USA can be double-teamed, allowing every player to get open looks and easily beat defenders off the dribble. Kobe, Wade, and Carmelo Anthony are scoring with ease. They can focus on defense, knowing the offense will come. And unlike many past Olympic Teams, this year’s team does focus on defense. Not winning gold in 2004 was an embarrassment and this team is not about to let that embarrassment continue. They are focused and determined to bring back gold to the US. Continue reading “The Redeem Team”