Gold standard


It may have just been a photo op, but perhaps the most telling snapshot of Team USA’s 2008 journey to gold was captured just after the medal ceremony, in the wee hours Sunday morning in the U.S. Shortly after the players were presented their gold medals, all 12 walked over to Coach Mike Krzyzewski, and draped their medals around his neck, a show of team unity that was the hallmark of the team during the Olympics. Since the coaches don’t receive medals, it was a great gesture to show just how much Coach K meant to this team, and how united this team really was.

Watching every second of every game, I couldn’t have been more proud to see our players take home the gold Sunday. For four years, since the disaster in Athens, all we’ve heard about is how U.S. basketball players are too selfish, too worried about highlights, can’t play defense, can’t sacrifice for their teams, don’t play with the same passion as international players, etc.  We’ve heard how the rest of the world has caught up, and in some people’s eyes, passed us.

Let’s dispel one myth right now. Losing in Athens was terrible to be sure, but I hardly think that demonstrated the rest of the world has caught us. I don’t think anyone can argue that the 2004 team was a representation of our best players. I like Richard Jefferson and Lamar Odom as much as the next guy, but are they really the best we have? Of course not. So while that 2004 team was certainly talented enough to win gold, coming home with a bronze was not an indication that basketball was off the map here. Yes, the world could beat our second-tier players, but these games showed that when our best compete, we still set the standard.

And it’s quite a standard they set. Not only did Team USA win their games by an average of 28 points, they did everything the “right way”…playing unselfishly, making the extra pass, keeping their composure, respecting opponents, and in general – playing for the name on their front of their jersey. There were superstars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, who are all used to having the ball in their hands, playing brilliantly off of each other, demonstrating terrific teamwork and adding to their legends in the process. There was Chris Paul, the NBA MVP runner-up last year, accepting coming off the bench, something he’s probably never done in his life. There’s Deron Williams, one of the best young point guards in the game, playing heavy minutes at the off-guard. There’s Dwight Howard, the center of the Orlando Magic franchise now, accepting his role as merely a defender and rebounder on this team. Carlos Boozer, one of the NBA’s premier forwards, playing only six minutes per game, and yet still being the first one off the bench to high-five his teammates. On and on down the roster, every player made sacrifices to their games to help Team USA capture gold, and that’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Off the court, this team was great too. While the 2004 team was branded “aloof” for keeping their distance from the games (is it really surprising that a team with Stephon Marbury had attitude problems??), this team was determined to take in the Olympic experience. There’s the now famous video of Kobe and LeBron cheering like star-struck fans at a Michael Phelps race. There was Jason Kidd, braving the rain to watch the U.S. women’s volleyball team take home gold. There’s pictures of Wade and Chris Bosh posing for photographs on the Great Wall, with the fans’ smiles only slightly larger than the ones the players wore.

I could go on and on about this team ( and I may have in some early morning texts or phone calls…sorry if I woke anyone), but I’ll just go back to that snapshot of Coach K with all the gold medals. After all the grief the 2004 team took, most of it deserved, we should be standing and applauding this team for their teamwork, unity and character. They were a team in the truest sense of the word, and they took home the ultimate prize for it. As a fan, I couldn’t be more proud.

So, to Jason Kidd, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd and Carlos Boozer, I say congratulations for the gold, and thanks for representing our country with pride and passion. Wearing U-S-A across your chest is a big responsibility and a great honor, and you all earned it every step of the way.

4 Responses to “Gold standard”

  1. TheGoldfishCowboy Says:

    I guess Chris Sheridan either got one of your phonecalls or finally came around:

    “The members of Team USA didn’t just win their gold medals, they earned them against the first opponent that finally gave them a game.

    They didn’t dominate in the final game; they performed. They didn’t nearly blow it; they closed it out. “

  2. cmajor7 Says:

    Great game last night. Great post, too. I didn’t know they gave up the love for Coach K.

  3. smoothron Says:

    It got a little misty during the medal ceremony at Bru’s last night. Then we promptly drank thirty more beers in celebration.

  4. TheGoldfishCowboy Says:

    at least nobody got hurt

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: