U.S. Is Back On Top Again

After completing a four-point play in the fourth quarter of yesterday's victory, Kobe Bryant tries to quiet the rowdy Spanish fans.
After completing a four-point play in the fourth quarter of yesterday's victory, Kobe Bryant tries to quiet the rowdy Spanish fans. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Andrew Bagnato
Associated Press
Monday, August 25, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 24 -- After cruising for two weeks at the Olympics, the United States was challenged for 40 minutes.

And it was worth every last one.

The Americans' riveting 118-107 victory against Spain in Sunday's gold medal game showed how good the U.S. team could be under pressure, and it capped a three-year mission to put the United States back atop the basketball world.

"This team has come a long way, and we had a lot of blowouts those first few games," point guard Chris Paul said. "So it was fitting that this one would be a close one. It really tested us to see what we were all about, and in the end, we showed we're the best in the world."

And hokey as it may sound, the Americans learned the value of teamwork.

This was the Americans' 13th gold medal in men's basketball, but none of the others was anything like it. There had been bounce-backs before -- after Munich, after Seoul. But no U.S. men's basketball team ever worked harder for the ultimate Olympic prize.

It was more than a bit symbolic when the team locked arms and stepped onto the medal platform before accepting the United States' first gold medal since 2000 in the sport it invented.

"It wasn't so much individual stuff and individual talent," said Spain's Pau Gasol, who scored 21 points. "It was more teamwork, probably well-directed by their coaching staff.

"I've seen the guys hungry and want to get back to the top," Gasol said. "That's what they've done. They were able to get to the top again and show that they should be in first place, but they had to work for it."

Dwyane Wade scored 27 points to lead the Americans and Kobe Bryant added 20.

Afterward, the entire U.S. team appeared at the postgame news conference, many of the players draped in American flags.

"If it wasn't for the determination and the willpower that we have in each other, we wouldn't have pulled through and gotten this win," said LeBron James, who emerged as the leader of this team. "Much respect to Spain, but the U.S. is back on top again."


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