August 24, 2008
Even the joyous scene which followed the U.S. men’s basketball team’s thrilling 118-107 gold-medal victory against Spain was as selfless as the play which had defined their Olympic performance.
They gathered in a circle, arms draped around each other’s shoulders. On the podium, they stood arm in arm. Posing for pictures, they put all their medals around coach Mike Krzyzewski’s neck and then mussed his mostly unmovable hair. They did the same to the assistant coaches, even ruffling Jim Boeheim’s mostly non-existent hair.
Though Team USA had dominated these Games, winning by an average of 28 points, though they had beaten Spain by 37 points in pool play, Spain, even without injured point guard Jose Calderon challenged the U.S. until the final moments. Krzyzewski called it “one of the great games in international basketball history,” at least in recent U.S. history.
When Spain, the defending world champions, closed to within two points with 8:13 remaining on a Rudy Fernandez three-pointer, the U.S. didn’t flinch. “I think when you’re in the NBA and a team comes within two you’re confident you can make a play,” said Dwyane Wade, who led the U.S. with 27 points. “When we’re on this team and a team comes within two, you’re confident anyone can make a play. You’re not necessarily worried.”
August 10, 2008
The best USA Basketball team in eight years is the result of previous mistakes in judgment. Over the preceding three major international competitions, the American men have failed to win an Olympic or world championship gold medal because they lacked shooting, chemistry and preparation time together.
That’s why managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski have made zone-busting shooting the priority while assembling a team of stars capable of helping one another. The team’s enhanced training schedule of the last three years has emphasized the importance of the mission.
“Because of the work that was done by Colangelo, Krzyzewski and everyone else, now we have the feeling that the Americans will win this time,” said Ettore Messina, the coach of Euroleague champion CSKA Moscow and a former coach of the Italian national team. “We are back to the way it was 10 years ago. I am not saying this team is like the one you had in 1992, but it is very close to that. We feel that you are much more serious this time than you were in recent years. So now people [competing against Team USA] are back to thinking about second place again, and this will help the Americans.”
The words of Michael Jordan when asked why he wouldn’t endorse progressive Democrat Harvey Gantt are, for me, one of the great stains on his escutcheon. While a man has a right to keep his political views private, Mike was roundly criticised for the comment, and for good reason. Gantt was running against Jesse Helms, a politician considered one of the last segregationists in the Senate who repeatedly voted against civil rights measures and once mounted a sixteen-day filibuster in an attempt to prevent Martin Luther King’s birthday from being recognised as a national holiday. Even so, Jordan chose not to take a stance, instead countering with a statement perceived as cynical and driven by financial concern.