Now that the adrenaline from the 2016 Olympic Basketball Games has faded, we can take a look back at how amazing the quadrennial event was and put into perspective some of the storylines that accompanied it. As expected, USA Basketball took home the gold medal in the event, despite the absence of some veteran team members like LeBron James and Chris Paul. While the United States did not send its best possible “Dream Team,” the 12 players fielded were clearly “dreamy” enough to get the job done and done right. Did their composition of players make the road to the top more difficult than it actually needed to be? Well, already looking ahead, USA Basketball is planning to field a more veteran-heavy contingent to Tokyo in 2020.
Kevin Durant was arguably the team’s MVP and most consistent force. He made his biggest impact in the finals against Serbia, where he dropped 30 points.
With the win, Carmelo Anthony now has the distinction of being the only athlete to ever win three Gold medals in the sport of Basketball. If Melo decides to compete for Team USA in 2020, and they win Gold once again, he might just achieve a feat that will take a long to time match, much less surpass.
Serbia took home the Silver medal for the event, but they can go home with pride, especially since they got fantastic performances from the team, specifically from Milos Teodosic and Miroslav Raduljica. They had a tough road to claim second place, facing tough competition from Croatia, then Australia.
Spain bagged the Bronze medal after edging out a tenacious Australian squad 88-89. Their path to the semis was exciting, to say the least. The team dropped games early in the group stage and was quickly in hot water. The veterans apparently just needed to warm up and went on a tear once they found their groove. They were able to muster a momentum that was stalled only by the eventual gold medalists. An argument could be made, that had the draw for the groups been different, Spain would not have fallen to the US in the semis, and be the ones donning silver around their necks. Serbia or Spain, which is the better European national team? Perhaps we can see the beginnings of a new rivalry brewing. Who knows?
This win will hopefully be a bright spot for Ricky Rubio, who had to deal with his mother’s bout with Cancer while he played through the 2015/16 NBA season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rubio brought some fire with him to Rio. The young point guard, who had never dunked in all of his five seasons in the NBA, slammed that rubber through the rim during the games.
Few things are more gut-wrenching and heartbreaking than having to go through the tough back-to-back losses that the Australia Boomers had to endure this 2016 Olympic Basketball Tournament. They fell to Serbia in the semis and narrowly missed a chance to stand on the podium, at the hands of Spain. They started out the tournament so strong that their competition was wary of playing against them. Alas, their initial splash did not make enough of a wave to carry them to shore. In the midst of these clouds of disappointment, the ray of light that shines through is that Australia has found its place in the global basketball arena. After wiping the tears from their eyes, the Boomers can go back home with their heads held high. Despite the loss, the Aussies can now say that they’ve truly found their “basketball identity” as a team. They played to their strengths, leaning on their physicality and grit. One thing’s for sure, their experience here at Rio will only serve to fuel the fire of competition in their hearts. Expect them to come back in 2020 hungrier than ever for that elusive Gold medal.
On a bittersweet note, these games mark the end of a chapter for some illustrious figures in international basketball. San Antonio Spurs teammates Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, have announced their retirement from their respective national teams. It was an especially emotional goodbye for Manu who was cheered on by his loving Latin American fans in their final game. His and Parker’s departures mark an end to an era for their respective organizations. As they say, it was time to “pass the torch”.