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News » Redeem Team couldn't have done it without you 2008-08-26


Redeem Team couldn't have done it without you 2008-08-26


Redeem Team couldn't have done it without you 2008-08-26
As someone who quite famously defended USA Basketball in 2004, it's important now that I acknowledge the over-top-criticism of Bling Team created the beauty of Redeem Team.

Watching Kobe, D. Wade, LeBron and Jason Kidd bring home the gold and restore the good name of USA Basketball made me remember one of life's oldest lessons:

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Spare the rod, spoil the child.

The hatred of our previous Olympic basketball squad four years ago produced a team the whole world fell in love with in Beijing.

Other than Michael Phelps, no one leaves China a bigger winner than the 12 men who compromised the Redeem Team. Wait, I take that back. David Stern and NBA owners might be bigger winners. Their goal of global domination is within reach now that Kobe and Co. have charmed China and nearly every athlete inside the Olympic Village.

I have to admit, it wouldn't have happened had the 2004 team not been brutalized at home by the media and basketball fans. I am not saying I agree with all the fans who tossed patriotism out the window and rooted against Allen Iverson's Bling Team.

I'm simply acknowledging that their animosity was effective.

The truth is 2004 was a terrible year for American professional basketball. We followed up our Olympic nightmare with the Malice at the Palace, which will probably stand as a symbol of NBA basketball hitting a post-Jordan rock bottom.

The sport and the athletes needed an intervention. They took their game, wealth, fame and fans for granted. It was a recipe for irrelevancy, hostility and bigotry. Those ingredients fomented into a near lethal cocktail of loathing.

The thin line between love and hate was completely blurred.

In retrospect, that was a good thing. Our players needed a good ass-whipping.

They weren't mature or responsible enough to take care of the game that Jordan, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Malone, Stockton and The Admiral handed them in pristine condition. They didn't take their role as ambassadors seriously.

In Greece, they didn't represent the NBA or — to be perfectly honest — black people properly. The players were aloof, disconnected from the other athletes and unwilling to accept coaching or playing roles from Larry Brown.

Four years later, they were the perfect role models. They embraced their position as ambassadors. They embraced the entire Olympic experience. They attended the events of other American athletes. They celebrated Michael Phelps' triumphs. They socialized. They experienced China.

And, most important, they won. And they won playing a style that was fun to watch.

When they knocked off Spain early Sunday morning in the gold-medal game, they rejoiced in victory like the victory really meant something, like it was important that they represented their country in an honorable fashion.

It wasn't hard. It didn't cost them street cred. America has made them filthy rich and ridiculously comfortable. They have every reason to express their patriotism. No one is asking them to do a tour in Iraq. All they had to do was spend a couple of weeks playing basketball in a foreign country and tolerate being worshipped by a billion people.

I'll admit. Had America not forcefully expressed its dissatisfaction with the Bling Team, we likely would've seen a re-enactment of 2004. Oh, USA Basketball might've won the gold, but it would have done little to fix its image.

What the all-black roster accomplished was important. There were stories early in the Olympics that the Chinese government was asking nightclubs not to serve black patrons. Popular mainstream rappers and athletes have destroyed the image of African-Americans internationally.

I'm glad Kobe, LeBron and all the rest did their best to undermine the negative stereotypes while on the world's stage. And, I guess, I should thank the folks who hated USA Basketball 2004 for putting our players in the proper mindset.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 26, 2008

 

 
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