Monday, August 18, 2008

Team USA is Saving American Basketball

There is a reason that I don't watch or write about the NBA and stick to the college game. I think NBA players are spoiled, I hate watching a bunch of guys who are so supremely talented and athletically gifted walk through an 82 game season, and I despise watching a sport that has become so much about money and business as opposed to the actual game itself.

But watching this olympic team play has made me question my hatred of NBA players.

Don't get me wrong. I highly doubt that the Beijing games are going to inspire Zack Randolph to play defense or make Shawn Marion realize he was a moron for bitching his way out of Phoenix, but it really has been a great experience for me to watch this USA team play. They play hard, they play scrappy, they actually play defense. Take D-Wade as an example. He is a guy who is just two seasons removed from an NBA championship and Finals MVP trophy. But in these olympics, Wade has completely bought into his role as Team USA's hustle guy. He is everywhere - causing havoc on defense, making plays in the open floor, getting offensive rebounds. Remember, we're talking about a 26 year old that is already a four time all-star and three time all-NBA selection.

For me, there really is nothing more enjoyable then to watch basketball played the right way, and it only gets better when the players involved are the absolute best in the world. And the American demolition of the Spaniards yesterday was exactly that. Two plays stand out in my mind from these olympics. The first was when an american player got beat baseline against Greece, and LeBron James came from help side (he was outside of the lane on the other side of the court) and blocked a lay-up, got the ball back, and pushed the ball up the floor leading to a picture perfect fast break and a bucket. The other was Dwayne Wade deflecting a pass in transition, chasing the ball down before it goes out of bounds on the sideline, and in one motion grabbing the ball as his momentum is carrying him out of bounds and throwing a beautiful alley-oop to Kobe for a dunk. Both plays took incredible athleticism and ability, but were also textbook fundamentally. If you don't enjoy watching that, then you are not a basketball fan.

Before these Olympics, I was afraid that American basketball and American players had gotten to the point where we were no longer the best in the world, that too many And 1 mixtapes and too much summer and AAU basketball had killed the skills of our best players. I really hope that guys like Lance Stephenson and John Wall are watching these games, and that they are taking in what they are seeing, because if our country's young talent can emulate the way this team is playing instead of the way Eddy Curry does, then I don't see our country coming home decorated in anything less than gold for a long time to come.


Nik said...

Im not going to say that the Americans aren't the best team at the Games, that's a given. But to say that they are saving basketball I think is a gross overstatement. If anything I feel that they are ruining Olympic Basketball altogether.

Now now wait don't get me wrong it has nothing to do with how good they are. Hell that's their best attribute, their skills allow them to attract more attention to the tournament and to just build the popularity of the sport.

But it is the nature of their presence in Beijing that sickens me. They are the only 12 athletes out of the 10,000+ that are not staying at the Olympic village. They have 5 floors of a luxury hotel rented out for themselves, a private team of chefs because the local food and the um 5 star chefs aren't good enough, the only team with personal security everywhere they go, and the only athletes acting like superstars at the games.

Now obviously they have every right to be that way, but you don't see Michael Phelps going out and winning 8 Golds and then returning to his penthouse suite along with entourage for a rest. You also don't see Michael Phelps acting like the opposition is passe and not scouting them or respecting them (e.g. the Greece scout where only the coaching staff and Kobe were present)

You see this team is awesome no doubt. But this isn't the Olympics as far as they are concerned. They are here to win a gold, get that "redemption," and the media bj that will follow and go home for 82 games of regular season, and that is sickening at least to me, because it makes everything that all these other men and women fight for seem so so stupid.

Rob Dauster said...

There is a reason that they act like superstars. It's because they are superstars. They get mobbed everywhere that they go - didn't you see the video of Kobe walking down the stairs of the arena, getting absolutely mobbed? Part of the reason that they wanted to live away from the village and that they don't really want to go out is that they don't want to deal with the mobs and mobs of people. They are, in fact, the most recognizable athletes there.

And it's not like they aren't participating in anything. Kobe and LeBron were at the finals for Phelps 8th gold, and I'm pretty sure that they were in attendance for the women's gymnastics.

Regardless, my point was more in how they were playing basketball, not how they were acting, and their performances speaks for itself.

Nik said...

eh im just hatin really now that i reread it....

although it is quite funny how different the perceptions are over here and back in the states...