Durant, Team USA maintain basketball supremacy

Published August 8, 2021, 2:30 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez

The world may have been catching up in men's basketball, but Team USA, for now, remains the Olympic gold standard.

Kevin Durant adds another Olympic gold medal and MVP award to his basketball legacy.

Six minutes have gone by in the pressure-packed, shaky gold medal match between the Americans and the French, and Team USA has yet to hit a 3.

Not that they weren’t trying. They tried seven times, but the attempts from Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, and Jrue Holiday all clanked. 

By the four-minute mark in the first quarter, France was up by six points after an emphatic, two-handed Rudy Gobert jam that sent the Team France bench up on their feet.

It was early, but because there was recent reference material, it eerily felt familiar. That moment, although fleeting, seemed to cement that the historic France win versus USA was not a fluke. It seemed like the world had finally caught up, and France is living, dunking proof.

All of a sudden, we were back to Day 1 of Olympic basketball, when Team USA had a 0-1 win-loss record, and looked as if the gold medal was up for grabs. The doubters might’ve been right: Team USA was in shambles and no longer a threat in international hoops.

The doubt wasn’t at all absurd. It made sense at that time, when the Americans played a brand of basketball that you couldn’t quite describe. They kept losing leads and dropping exhibition games. They couldn’t keep a 25-game Olympic winning streak going against France, where Durant scored only 10 points.

The Gobert dunk was a big moment for France because it was their biggest lead of the game. It was also the last time they had control. After that play, Durant scored 10 consecutive points for Team USA, and they would never trail again. Ever.

Like he did against Spain and Australia, KD took the “best player in the world” tag and slapped it on the back of his jersey, told his team to hang on, and just went for it. Each time France caught up, KD had an answer, either via one of his smooth-as-silk jumpers or his tough-as-nails defense.

It was fitting that as France got within three points with only 9 seconds left in the game, it was Durant who was tasked to bring home the gold for his country. He stepped into the free throw line with all the criticisms, expectations, and burdens of being Team USA on his shoulders. He took a couple of dribbles and shook his shoulders to get loose. Swish, swish.

It was Team USA’s fourth consecutive gold medal in the Olympics. It was also the least convincing. The difference of five points is the smallest margin of victory of any Olympic USA gold medal squad.

But how this iteration of Team USA achieved the goal won’t matter in 2024 when they try to defend the gold again. What matters is that they won it despite the Ricky Rubios, the Patty Mills, and the Rudy Goberts of the world. 

After the game, Olympic MVP KD—three-time gold medalist and all-time leading US men’s basketball scorer—immediately went back to Social Media MVP KD to address the doubters and the haters who didn’t believe Team USA could bring home the Tokyo 2020 gold.

It’s a foreign concept, really, just basing off of Team USA history and dominance since forever. But as international basketball gets more and more exciting each year (what’s good, Luka Doncic?), this is something to consider for those who still have doubts: just have faith in USA basketball and enjoy the show.