The Olympics aren’t pictured as a big deal in the home of basketball, USA. A slower and less athletic game with many different, maybe even a few crazy rules. International teams like Spain, Lithuania and Argentina play very systematically and in an organized manner, compared to the NBA where the focus is on showing off the skills of the players.
But the London Olympics drilled in the fact that International Basketball is growing by leaps and bounds. The tournament was conducted in fantastic fashion, with players from all over the world with diverse skills competing for the gold medal. The international teams might play better as a unit but as individuals it was still mostly the Americans who dominated the game.
Here’s my all-Olympic team:
Pau Gasol, Spain – CENTER
What did I love most about Spain? The team belonged to Pau Gasol. In the NBA we always see him playing a support role and never as the star he truly is. The Spain team plays through Pau Gasol in the high post who scores on defenders and at the same time dishes it out to to cutting guards or open shooters. Over the course of the tournament, Gasol averaged 19.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
In the semi-finals when Spain was losing by double digits at half-time, Pau inspired Spain to a win. He took the ball in the post, passed out, got it back and then attacked again. He was responsible for getting the ball to the open shooters and the inspiration behind the comeback even though Jose Calderon hit the big buckets.
In the gold-medal game, Pau Gasol just stepped it up to another level (I have never seen him play an individual game like that since he joined the Lakers). Pau scored 24 points, brought down 8 rebounds and dished out 7 assists to give Spain a chance at victory.
Lebron James, United States of America – FORWARD
King James is the best player in the world. He is hands down the most dominant player on both ends of the floor. But there was always a question on most people’s minds – Is Lebron James a winner? Now he’s answered that by winning a championship and leading Team USA to a gold medal at the Olympics!
He didn’t need to do much during the group stages averaging 13.3 points per game on 60.3 percent shooting with 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists. But when Team USA was struggling from behind the 3-pt line, it was King James who helped bail out Team USA by destroying defenders off the dribble. He even played as the Center when Chandler was on the bench. Lastly, when the Americans were struggling to close out the Spanish players he responded with two big buckets in the 4th Quarter. In a team with Bryant, Durant and Anthony, it was James who played the closer’s role for Team USA in the Gold Medal. Let that sink in – Lebron James: The Closer.
Kevin Durant, United States of America – FORWARD
Kevin Durant is the pure shooter on the team. He has the ability to just shoot the daylights off the opponent. Durant played that role multiple times for Team USA over the 8 games in London 2012. He has the ability to score even against a perfect defense. Add his length to his shooting ability and he becomes absolutely impossible to stop.
The international three point line is about 18in closer to the ring and Durant made it count. He knocked down 34 daggers from behind the 3 point arc while shooting 52%. He averaged 19.5 points per game( second only to Patty Mills). But most importantly, Durant stepped it up in the Gold Medal match when Team USA really needed his scoring touch by scoring 30 points and also grabbing 9 rebounds along with one steal and a block. Like Lebron, KD was also probably saving his best for last.
Patty Mills, Australia – GUARD
Patty Mills is the only relatively unknown, non-superstar player who’s made it onto the All-Olympics team, but what a performance he put forth at the Olympics!
Mills drained the best shot of the Olympics when he swiftly moved to the top of the circle to catch a pass with 1.8 seconds left, when Australia was trailing by two to the Russians, and boom he knocked it down to hand Russia it’s only defeat in the group stage.
Patty Mills was the only player to average about 20 points per game at the Olympics. He averaged 21.5 ppg scoring 127 of Australia’s 496 points. That’s an astonishing 25% of his teams points even though he was only on the floor for 29 minutes per game. Mills provided the spark to Australia and led them into the knockout rounds.
Manu Ginobili, Argentina - GUARD
Before Manu Ginobili ever played in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs, he led the Argentina basketball team to victory against the Americans in 2002 at the FIBA World Championships. Fast forward to 2004, Ginobili scored 29 points against Team USA in the Olympics semi-final match-up and then wenton to win a Gold medal for Argentina. Manu Ginobili played a big role in inspiring the NBA superstars to play for Team USA.
In the London Olympics, 35- year old Manu Ginobili again lead Argentian by averaging 19.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists. With Luis Scola’s support, Ginobili almost won an Olympic medal for Argentina again.
The world will miss Ginobili at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
Other Top Players: Andrei Kirilenko, Russia; Luis Scola, Argentina; Carmelo Anthony, USA; Kevin Love, USA