Saturday, July 28, 2012

Why This Year's USA Team Isn't A Lock To Win The Gold

     This year, the United States Men's Basketball team is favored yet again to win the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Led by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant, this team is poised and expected to be wearing gold around their necks when it's all said and done. As an American, I am of course cheering for the United States, and I do hope they are able to achieve their ultimate goal. But, it seems more comparisons and debate have risen specifically about this team more than any of the other past teams. This team is certainly stacked with some talent, but I don't believe they're as great as they make themselves to be. Here are some reasons why:

1. The Dream Team Comparisons

     First, this team is comparing themselves too often to the 1992 Dream Team. Bryant and James have both been quoted saying that they believe this year's team is better than the 1992 team. I can respect their competitive nature, but there's a fine line between highly competitive and arrogant. The 2012 team does not have the depth down low to play against the 1992 team. Karl Malone is arguably the best power forward of all time, and Patrick Ewing and David Robinson are two of the best centers of all time. Tyson Chandler will never be a Hall of Famer, and is not even close to the skill level of either Malone, Robinson or Ewing. The 2012 team is constructed on speed instead of size, but the 1992 team has plenty of skill and speed to stick with the 2012 team's fastest players. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley had the combined size and speed that would be able to take on LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. At point guard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams are two of the top three point guards in the league, but they don't stand much of a chance against two of the greatest of all time at that position in Magic Johnson and John Stockton. Magic has the size and finesse that would be able to fight against Williams, who's known as a physical point guard. Stockton is one of the best statistical passers ever, and although Paul's defense is All-NBA worthy, Stockton was a smart player and would not turn the ball over. Position by position, the 1992 team is better than the 2012 team. As a team, the 1992 Dream Team played as cohesive as any unit ever assembled. During the Tournament of the Americas and the Olympics, the Dream Team trailed only once, for a brief time during the first quarter of the Gold Medal game against Croatia. The Dream Team was so dominating that their average margin of victory was by nearly 44 points. This gets to my next point.

Can this year's Team USA led by (left to right) Kevin Durant, LeBron James,
Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant claim the gold medal again in London?

2. The 2012 USA Team Isn't Really Dominating

     After adding up all the USA's preliminary matches against the Dominican Republic, Great Britain, Brazil, Argentina and Spain, the USA's average margin of victory is only 26 points, compared to the Dream Team's 44 point margin. That's an 18 point difference, which is somewhat telling. Yes, the 2012 team easily handled Al Horford's Dominican Republic and Luol Deng's Great Britain squads. But, they faced stern tests from Brazil, Spain, and Argentina. The USA was evenly matched by Brazil pound for pound in the entire game besides the second quarter, when they outscored Brazil by 15 points. Argentina provided a tough test, and lost by a mere six points. Spain is expected to be the USA's toughest challenger, and even though they lost to the United States by 22, they played without current Memphis Grizzlies All-Star center Marc Gasol and Minnesota Timberwolves crafty young point guard Ricky Rubio. Other key members of their team, including Rudy Fernandez and Juan Carlos Navarro, are also dealing with injuries. Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Jose Calderon make up an NBA trio for the Spaniards that is proven and skilled, and they will be able to challenge the United States. This gets to my last point.

3. Basketball is Spreading Worldwide, and the Talent is Growing

Luol Deng leads host nation Great Britain, making its
first men's basketball Olympic appearance since 1948.
     Several nations in the Olympics are represented by at least one current or former NBA player. Basketball is being spread worldwide by the NBA, and its effects are being shown in the Olympics. Some very solid players in the NBA, including the Gasol brothers, Nene, Tony Parker, Luol Deng and Manu Ginobili, have chosen to represent their countries in London. The USA has a great amount of talent which makes them this year's favorite to win the gold medal, but the talent on the other teams is respectable and as time goes on, they will be able to field better talent that could match and possibly beat the United States because the game of basketball is gaining popularity. For now, Team USA is the favorite, but Olympic basketball will provide even greater competition in the future as basketball, as well as talent, continues to grow around the world.

     The Olympics is the ultimate sports event and is a great gathering for sports fans around the world. London 2012 figures to provide another great chapter in the history books, as there are many records international athletes strive to best every single day. Enjoy the Olympics everyone, it's going to be another gripping and enjoyable summer!

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