(Sports Network) - Forty years after injustice in Munich and 20 years after
the Dream Team spiked interest in basketball worldwide, the United States
Men's National Team is again draped in gold.
Led by a core of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, the U.S. defeated
Spain, 107-100, to claim gold at the London Games, repeating the result of
four years earlier when the Americans topped the Spaniards at the Beijing
It wasn't easy and it may never be again.
Spain was within one after three quarters until the United States used a 12-3
run early in the fourth to restore order and capture a cushion which
ultimately help up.
Durant, the world's best scorer, buried a 3-pointer during the decisive burst
and finished with 30 points for the Americans, while the game's best player,
James, capped an absolutely brilliant year by adding 19 points, including two
key baskets in the closing minutes to help seal the 14th Olympic title for the
In fact James let loose with a hammer and then a dagger, first driving down
the lane with a thunderous dunk and following with a 3-pointer, which proved
to be the death blow for the Spaniards.
"It's all about the USA," said James after the game. "It's all about the three
letters on the chest."
The Americans have now won five of the six gold medals since NBA stars began
Olympic play at the 1992 Barcelona Games but as the dominance continues so
does the realization that the rest of the world is in the left lane, speeding
up at a brisk pace.
Perhaps the collateral damage of the '92 Dream Team, which featured legendary
figures like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley,
was its impact on the rest of the world.
While Futbol (soccer) is still king outside America's borders, basketball is
closing the gap in a lot of places.
Already the U.S. was forced to shift gears to stay on top. After a
disappointing bronze medal finish at the 2004 Athens Olympics, USA Basketball
set off in a new direction, tabbing Jerry Colangelo, the respected former
Phoenix Suns chairman and CEO, as managing director of the program.
Colangelo preached continuity and snared legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski
to pilot the team in what is a pressure-cooker of a job. The results have been
perfect, the undefeated gold medal run in Beijing followed by another gold at
the 2010 World Championships in Istanbul, and finally Sunday's performance in
Krzyzewski's reaction after the final buzzer on Sunday was as much relief as
exuberance and also telling. Win or lose, "Coach K" is cool as a cucumber with
the Blue Devils but failing with the USMNT is just not an option, a mentality
which is probably no longer realistic moving forward.
The London Games featured a record number of NBA players toiling for the rest
of the world. Spain, for instance, was loaded with the Gasol brothers as well
as Serge Ibaka, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Calderon, Victor
Claver, Sergio Llull and Juan-Carlos Navarro.
You can make a strong argument that the Americans would have blitzed Spain if
Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose were available to
Krzyzewski, just as people in Madrid are surely lamenting Marc Gasol's foul
trouble on Sunday and wishing Ricky Rubio wasn't convalescing from a torn ACL.
The margin of error for the United States grows slimmer and slimmer by the day
but the expectations remain.
For now we remain on top.
Tomorrow may be a different story but no matter the result in Rio, you can
take pride in the fact that basketball will always be one of America's
The Sports Network