USA Basketball Caps Great Sports Weekend

Jordan Plaut

This past weekend was arguably one of the most entertaining in recent sports memory.

It all started on Saturday with the second week of college football play. Big-name teams played some more substantial opponents and down-to-the-wire games like Michigan vs. Notre Dame kept the college football fan on the edge of their seat.

Then, Sunday pulled off a trifecta. First off, it was the start of the highly anticipated NFL regular season and games filled the day with professional football excitement. Second was the semi–finals of the U.S. Open in tennis. While Rafael Nadal quickly dispatched of his opponent, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic battled to five sets with Djokovic somehow prevailing to reach the final.

Even with all of these amazing spectacles preceding it, the most important sports event of this wonderful weekend was the U.S. basketball team’s victory in the title game of the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

Yes, the college and pro football games were exciting and the season is fresh so every game seems really interesting but it is only week two of a long season. The U.S. Open matches were very entertaining, but they were obviously not the final so it was not quite as important. The FIBA final was an international event that, somehow, meant more to people outside of the U.S. than it did to those of us living here.

The United States victory is bigger than a lot of people might think. The U.S. has not won this tournament since 1994 and that was when the Americans had Michael Jordan. This time around, the U.S. fielded a so-called “B-Team” consisting of “almost” stars. But the team standing up on the podium was not second-rate by any means; it was the best international basketball team in the world. With the exception of the Brazil scare, in which a last-second Leandro Barbosa three-pointer and potential game-winner narrowly missed, the U.S. carried the tournament with minimal resistance.

If there is one star on the U.S. team it is none other than tournament MVP Kevin Durant. He showed why he earned the honor and more in the final.

By scoring 28 points, Durant set a new American tournament scoring record. With less than a minute left in the game, he walked off the court to share a hug with coach Mike Krzyzewski, or Coach K as you may know him, and revel in the moment. The Duke coach has led the team in the past two tournaments, only to fall short and settle for bronze both times. Now, he is bringing home the gold.

Doesn’t that kind of thing just make you feel all warm and fuzzy, being an American and all? (If you are not an American citizen and are reading this, it’s alright. You are free to not feel warm and fuzzy at this point).

Even though this year’s team was nothing to scoff at, it certainly did not have the star caliber of the 2008 Beijing team that won gold. No Kobe Bryant. No LeBron James. No Dwyane Wade. The press was aware of it and the players were aware of the press. All it did was motivate those “B’s” to prove they were “A’s”.

Then again, the Americans knew before the tournament that they would be bringing a different team to Turkey than they had brought to Beijing. The ’08 Olympians took the summer off, with a fair amount of warning, and newcomers Amare Stoudemire and David Lee were All-Stars ready to lead the team. Then, on the opening day of camp, those two opted out and the U.S. was left with a young, undersized group with six players 22 or younger and only one true center in Tyson Chandler, not exactly a game-changer.

So what did they do? They rode out the Kevin Durant barrage of dunks and 3’s to a world championship title and guaranteed spot in the 2012 Olympics in London. No one can say enough about Durant’s performance throughout the tournament. He really was that good.

On an “international perspective” note, the U.S. beat Turkey in Istanbul, the border city of Europe and Asia. Turkey approved large-scale changes to their constitution in a referendum vote on the same day as the final, hailing the day as a leap toward full democracy. While that’s all well and good the U.S. showed that, at least for now, we’re still the dominant democracy in the world whether it’s the East, the West, or

somewhere in between.

International dominance, some awesome basketball, and a throwback to the 90s? Now that’s a good weekend.