The Unthinkable

Jason Campos

It was inevitable. It had to happen sooner or later. The World Championships of basketball in Indianapolis have come and gone. Do you know what place your country’s team came in? Sixth. No glorious gold, no so-so silver, not even shameful bronze.

The good ol’ Red, White, and Blue squad relinquished the spot of top dog in a sport that it has held dominance in for decades. There have been few periods in the history of international basketball when the USA did not exhibit frightening superiority over its competition on the hardwood.

The time may have come when the glory days of yore fade into the dusty pages of history. The United States basketball team, comprised of a gaggle of athletic and talented NBA players, fell on its collective face, not once, not twice, but three times within the short span of a week.

The Americans were on track to capture the gold medal and once again demonstrate to the world whose sport basketball is. Actually, what the Americans used to put on display is not the greatest “team” on the planet, but the greatest “players” in the world.

There was a time when that was enough for any United States basketball team to win any tournament, just showing up was enough for victory. But, the rest of the world has caught up. Yes, the outcome would have been significantly different if Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan had committed to playing (I know Shaq’s about to have toe surgery, but that’s irrelevant).

So how can this embarrassment been avoided again? First of all, the American players and coaches have to realize that it isn’t a total embarrassment. The Yugoslavia team fielded some excellent players (including NBA stars Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac) and it excelled in its offensive execution, a well-oiled machine that the USA was at loss to stop at times.

Second, when in Rome, yaddah yaddah yaddah. It’s international basketball, fellas. Everyone else is playing a particular brand of basketball, while you and your coaches think it’s perfectly fine to bring the NBA game into play. Passing and finding the open man, not creating your own shot, is what wins these games. Once you figure that out, you’ll find it much easier to win.

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