American basketball fans have to be over the moon at the young U.S team’s success at the World Basketball Championships played in Turkey. Despite missing most of the superstars who led them to Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, the U.S not only won , it won going away.Except for one close game in the group stage , they were never seriously challenged . Playing with poise and determination, they quieted the raucous home crowd , demolishing Turkey by a score of 81-64 in the final.
While the victory was a total team effort , special mention must be made of Kevin Durant who reserved his best performance for the final , scoring 28 points while canning seven three pointers and playing an all round game. In the past he has been overshadowed by Kobe Bryant and Lebron, but this performance proved that he is fully their equal .And to think he is only 21 ! I’m a Los Angeles Laker fan but, if they should ever stumble, I hope Kevin Durant and the Thunder win it all. What is so likeable about Durant is his humility , his old fashioned modesty. It is refreshing to see an athlete who is not full of himself.
The absence of the big name stars may actually have worked in favor of the U.S. This young team ( six players were under 22) did not have any big egos , were hungry to prove themselves and played as a team . Despite their lack of height ( they had only one true center ), they used their quickness and defense to overwhelm their opponents . A lot of the credit goes to the veteran Chauncey Billups whose experience and floor generalship was invaluable . Kudos also to the stellar effort of the coaching staff , Duke’s legendary Coach K assisted By Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Nate McMillan of the Portland TrailBlazers. They did a marvelous job getting the U.S youngsters accustomed to the international rules and building up team spirit. At past World Championships , the superstars on the U.S team were too full of themselves and expected to win merely by showing up. Which is why the U.S only won a bronze . They , particularly LeBron James, behaved like boors and were not good ambassadors for America. This unheralded young team was different; not only did they win the gold they won the hearts of the spectators.
Going into the tournament , the U.S were by no means the favorites. Some of the trolls on the Yahoo message boards guaranteed that the U.S would finish no higher than fifth. With each win , these same trolls predicted that the U.S would come a cropper in the next round . After the U.S won the gold , you would think these nay- sayers would have the decency to shut up. No such luck. Now they are harping on the fact that many of the other teams were missing a star player or two. What surprises and angers me is that many of these dolts are Americans . I can’t understand why anyone would not support their national team . I can understand not agreeing with your nation’s politics but when it comes to sport I’d expect them to support your team , or at the very least , not bad mouth them.
After the championships there was a news story about Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks who wondered if he’d been left off the team because he was not affiliated with Nike . He pointed out that 9 of the 12 players on the team endorsed Nike, only three did not. I don’t think there is any substance to his suspicions . The guards on the team were Chauncey Billups, Derrick Rose , Russell Westbrook , Stephen Curry and Eric Gordon. Jennings is a good player but I can’t rate him higher than any of them. If most of them have been signed with Nike it merely means that Nike is much more active than its rivals in signing up basketball talent.
With this victory , the U.S qualifies automatically for the 2012 London Olympics . They will not have to play any more qualifying matches. However , the possible NBA lockout may mean that none of the NBA players will be available for the London Olympics. That would be a shame since it would mean that the U.S would be represented by a bunch of inexperienced collegians . One hopes that is not the case. One also hopes that even if all the superstars are available , the selection committee is not swayed by their reputations but chooses the best team … one that is proud to wear the U.S colors and one that we can be proud of .