A wise man once said, "To those who can dream there is no such place as faraway." To USA basketball, such faraway places include Indianapolis, Athens, and Saitama.
The onus was on Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his chosen band of hoopies (if hip is to … you get the point) and the hoopla that went along with it. It made a strong cocktail — rich in taste, but poor for health. Few, if any, question the dream of recapturing the throne the U.S. hoops team lost four years ago, at the world basketball championship in Indianapolis.
The dream, once again, was squashed away on the sweaty floors of Saitama as Team USA finished third at the world basketball championship.
Somewhere in Los Angeles Bill Simmons is grinning with his trademark I-told-you-so face. He was spot on unlike other experts who dreamed along with Dream Team 7.2. For the record, that includes me (but the catch is I'm not an expert, unless you are making the comparison with my editor).
Indianapolis in 2002 was ugly. The Athens Olympics in 2004 weren't pretty either. In fact, Athens 2004 marked the beginning of the downward spiral for coach Pound (Larry Brown). He made the mistake of not playing stars like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. Now we know it wouldn't have made a difference.
This time, however, was ear-marked to be different. The kickass attitude was back. Coach K was at the helm although I was furious (there's no tangible evidence) when he cut Uncle Bruce Bowen, but I convinced myself that it was a small sacrifice to be made for the bigger goal.
This time we had a bagful of chosen ones, the original chosen one, the chosen one chosen after Darko Milicic, and the chosen one who was chosen 2 spots after Darko, all destined to prove a point and not warm the bench. But the chosen ones, our bad, choked.
The good news is we lost to Greece – name the starting five – my salary's on the table. Thanks to Hoops God it wasn't Ginobili led Argentina, or Gasol led Spain, or Darko led Serbia and Montenegro (coughs again), or else David Stern would be calling "Houston we have a problem".
The bottom line is: you can take the chosen ones to Saitama, but you cannot take the pajamas out of the chosen ones. And that's how they played, in pajamas.
But, it's not their fault — yes, you heard me right. It wasn't their fault. It was, if any, the fault of the NBA bubble where accolades rain in every 30 seconds, where the cushy cushions and hypo-hypes make the mortals feel immortal. Do we must send them to face the pins?
There's nothing wrong with our hoop. If you say it's international game, you are simply fooling yourself. NBA games and international games are not basketball in Earth and Mars (seriously if you look at the gravity you will see what difference it makes).
The wrong is in the culture of overselling. As long as everyone makes money from the hype, everyone is happy because in the end, it's not so much about the fans as we are made to believe.
So, every two years when you put them in the same cage with people who value their game, their country and make one thousandth of the dollars that you pay the people here for the same or lesser skills, you get, what you got. A bronze for the show.
Since basketball is never played one-on-one (unless it's in your backyard) the 10,000 synonyms for putting that damn ball in the hoop from point blank range actually carries zero substance. Call it AC 360 or Tomahawk or Kid Rock. The net points you get is two, minus the Tarzan cries and chest thumps.
It's good for advertising and selling shoes and power drinks and making tons of money. As it turns out, not good enough to carry the dreams of 300 million on the spoiled shoulders.Powered by Sidelines