So the Redeem Team won the gold medal in Beijing. What in the end looked like no surprise must actually be considered a deserved win by the best team of the tournament: Nothing more and nothing less. The final game showed that the gap between the USA and the rest of the world is not widening again, but that USA needs to prepare and bring their best players in order to beat a Spanish team by only 11 points.
The group phase was the All-Star showing for the USA, as the top teams did not go in with all their forces while Team USA tried to destroy anybody and amazed the (Chinese) fans with their dunks and blocks. While Europeans discussed traveling violations by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and others, the US press and fans started to talk again about absolute domination of Team USA.
With the start of the medal round, the games were getting more intense and the level of playing increased. While Team USA had little trouble advancing to the semis, Australia showed that the Redeem Team was beatable, for one half. Argentina gave them a good fight and the game was as important for the US players as for the players around Manu Ginobili that ended the USA’s olympic run for gold in 2004. Missing Manu did not suppress the Argentineans’ hope until deep into the last quarter.
And then, this morning, a final for the ages. Two teams that were highly motivated, driven by success. Spain, the current world champion, led by a 17-year-old point guard against a US team that does not know the word “defeat.” And we saw a basketball beauty with wild three-point shots, hard fouls and spectacular plays. And a US team that had to give everything they had and go to very big plays of Kobe Bryant to win the gold medal back.
Despite the once-again questionable non-calls on the traveling, despite all the arrogant talk and look of Team USA, despite the Spanish flopping and all the other random stuff, this was one of the most exciting basketball games I have seen in a long time. I can’t wait for London 2012. but let’s first hope we will see this US team wanting to reconquer the World Championship title in 2010 in Turkey. In a way different atmosphere against even more pumped up European teams, everything is set for a big basketball party to come in two years.
Congratulations to Team USA for the gold medal, congratulations to Spain for never giving up and showing us the best plays of the finals, congratulations to Argentina and their bronze medal as a final punctuation on a tremendous generation. But finally also congratulations to Lithuania for their 5th Olympic semifinal in their fifth participation ever. Losing five times at this stage must be a tough feeling to handle.
We will see you all back in 2010 in Istanbul, or at latest 2012 in London. Thank you, Beijing, and goodbye China!