40 years ago, the United States men’s basketball team lost in the gold medal game to Russia – a controversial ending to that game. The team has still never accepted their silver medals, and it doesn’t seem like they ever will.
This time, LeBron James and company made sure there was no controversial ending this time.
With their perfect 8-0 record, the U.S.A. won their second consecutive gold medal with a 107-100 victory over Spain. Much like the final game in 2008, this one wasn’t decided until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, as the Spaniards got to within six with about three minutes left.
Unwilling to let his team lose like so many times in this Olympics, James scored five points off a monsterous dunk and a dagger-like 3-pointer in the final 2:50 to essentially close out Spain’s chances. He would finish with 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals; he also did something that only Michael Jordan had done before – win a NBA MVP, NBA championship and a gold medal all in the same year.
In just his first Olympics, Kevin Durant once again led the team with 30 points and nine rebounds, making five 3-pointers in the process. He finished with the most points for a U.S. player in a single Olympics with 156, showcasing his impressive scoring prowess on an international stage. Throughout all of the team’s games, he made offense look easy, scoring from as far as 30 feet.
That’s not to say that Spain didn’t have their potential heroes in this one, however. Lakers forward Pau Gasol nearly willed his team to victory by himself, scoring 24 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out seven assists. FC Barcelona’s and former Memphis Grizzly Juan Carlos Navarro scored 21 points, and Gasol’s brother Marc shot 80% from the field and scored 17 points.
Unfortunately for the Spanish national team, it was just not enough once again. They used a 31-24 second quarter to pull within one at halftime, and the score stayed that way after a 24-all third quarter – a frame that had been the deciding factor in many of the U.S.’ victories.
As both teams fought back and forth in the fourth quarter, neither could pull away, and the six-point lead was the most that the Americans could keep, until James had his mini-outburst, putting the U.S. up 102-93 with under two minutes to play. Once the game went final, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” began playing over the stadium’s sound system, a fitting ending to one of the more exciting games of these 2o12 Olympic games.
Some eye-popping stats from the 2012 tournament:
- The Americans came in leading the tournament in several statistical categories, including:
- Points per game (115.5)
- 2-point and 3-point shooting percentage (60 and 44, respectively)
- Points off turnovers (198-77)
- Fast-break points (175-55)
- Total points (924; next closest was Argentina with 690)
While this tournament marked a huge milestone for U.S.A. basketball, the NBA has hinted that they might consider imposing an under-23 age limit for their Olympic representatives; if that came to fruition, just one player on this current roster, Anthony Davis, would be eligible by the 2016 Olympics. While the older players on the team, specifically Kobe Bryant, has expressed that this was his final Olympic run, most of the players on the roster don’t want an age limit. What do you think – should the NBA limit their players like this?