"We should win the gold medal. We are the most talented."
That's what Richard Jefferson, a forward on the U.S. Olympic basketball team, said after the team got trounced by Puerto Rico earlier this week, 92-73.
Jefferson's comment got me wondering about what we think of as "talent" in sports. It seems to me that when fans, players and even some coaches talk about talent, they mention only a few things.
In basketball, a player who can run fast, jump high and dunk in a flashy way is usually called talented. It's the same in other sports: The quarterback with the strongest arm, the slugger who can hit a baseball a mile -- they are the ones that everyone says are talented.
But basketball, like other team sports, is more than just running, jumping and looking good flying through the air. There are a bunch of other talents that players need to help their team win.
Talents such as hustling during the games and in practice. Or listening to the coaches and following instructions, especially when the pressure is on. That's how teams win close games. Or caring more about the team than about how many points you score. To me, those are talents, too, but almost no one mentions them when talking about talent.
Morgan Wootten, the basketball Hall of Fame coach whose DeMatha High School teams won more than 1,200 games, once told me, "The five best players seldom make the best team." He said, "I always tell my players that if you have a beautiful garden, you will need someone to weed it. Every team needs players who will do some of the dirty work -- the players who will dive for loose balls, set the picks and make the hustle plays that win games."
That's important for kids to remember when they watch the Olympic basketball games or any other team sport. Any player, even the one who doesn't run the fastest or jump the highest, can help a team if he or she is ready, willing and able to play hard and play as part of a team.
Maybe, as Richard Jefferson said, the U.S. men will win the gold medal in Athens because they are more talented than their opponents. After all, they came back to beat Greece, 77-71, and Australia, 89-79.
But even though those other teams may not run as fast or jump as high, they have talents, too. Their athletes are tough, move the ball and play more like a real team than a bunch of all-stars.
And sometimes teams such as that win gold medals, instead of the "most talented" team.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.
-- Former DeMatha basketball coach Morgan Wootten
Great teams hustle, listen to coaches and ignore individual statistics.