Thursday, July 5, 2012
Behind The Scoreboard
Basketball success in Olympics
While we are still basking in the glow of a pro basketball season which started in doubt and ended in pretty good fashion, the truth of the matter is that there is still quite a bit of basketball left which is going to grab our interest for a few more weeks. This is a national election year and an Olympics year. This time the games will be in London, England, and it will be interesting to see if the Brits can outdo the Chinese Peoples Republic. The ’08 Olympics of Bejing were indeed spectacular.
All of us naturally have our special events that we will be waiting to see, for instance, how many medals will Michael Phelps gather this time out? Will anyone beat Jamaica’s Usain Bolt?
And, of course, will the USA basketball team continue its winning streak? Do you realize that the USA has failed to win the gold medal only twice in the years of their participation? One year the president of the United States would not allow the U.S. team to take part. That was in 1980 and Jimmy Carter forbade the team to go to Russia.
The first time the U.S. was defeated was in 1972 when they lost to the USSR. Yours truly was in the Far East at the time and when AFN aired the final results of that game, all of the Americans almost started World War III. The officials clearly robbed the Americans of that win. The team has never claimed the silver they were awarded for second place. When they lost again to the Russians, it was in 1988, and that time it was a fair fight. However, the U.S. team was comprised of collegiate players and all the Europeans and other nationalities were paid professional athletes. Some of the members of the U.S. Team would not accept their bronze medals, this time out of humiliation.
Then, the director of the Federation of International Basketball Associations, made the classical ruling that all members of the federation could use paid athletes. A couple of years later the Dream Team was assembled in 1991.
They were coached by Chuck Daly, who had led the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back NBA championships in ‘89 and ’90. He reached out and found Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin and John Stockton. The team had already amassed a truckload of fame even before they deplaned at Barcelona in 1992. They had sailed through all 13 opponents in the tournament of the Americas, winning by an average margin of 50 points.
In Spain they wiped out all prior defeats and downed eight countries to win the gold. The team gained such recognition that it has indelibly dubbed it “The Dream Team.” There were 11 professionals and one collegiate (Laettner) on that team. And it was not without controversy. One player was systematically excluded from that team and it has never been satisfactorily explained why. Isiah Thomas was passed over twice in the selection process. Thomas had been credited with leading the Daly coached Pistons to those two championships.
The 2012 team has not been finalized yet but there is a good chance that collegiate Anthony Davis (Kentucky) will be a part of the team, which will also be studded with most of the NBA stars of today.
I would like to say have a happy, healthy Fourth of July and thanks for the kind words about this column and your South Reporter.
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