With one of the more entertaining NCAA football weekends in recent memory behind us, I pause to wonder if I should ever write again. As friend after friend of mine responds with sarcasm about my “Football is not Football” argument, I watched in horror as my Colts lost to the lowly Texans.
Fortunately, I have one, and only one, shot at redemption, which is the hope that while most Americans were watching the NFL kickoff its season, I could possibly write about something that most people missed:
Team USA against Turkey in the World Championship Final.
In case you have been living under a rock for the past three weeks, Team USA hasn’t won a World Championship since 1994. Of course, with the potential for failure looming over their heads, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony all chose not to play. Instead, a “B Team,” led by Kevin Durant and all of his buddies, chose to represent their country, and have overachieved to this point.
In the Gold Medal game, Team USA played the hometown favorites, Turkey, which had beaten all odds and ridden their crowd’s backs to the championship game. The atmosphere in the arena could be described as a cross between Fenway (when the Rocket returned), Cameron Indoor (on homecoming), and Philadephia (anytime).
All this is to say that the young Americans were definitely up against it.
Here is my running diary of the Gold medal game, which picks up halfway through the first quarter (thank you Bill Simmons for allowing me to blatantly rip off this idea).
3:06 left in 1st
The good guys are losing 17-14. I am immediately struck at how loud it is. It feels like a World Cup game without the annoying trumpets.
2:44 left in 1st
The Durantula hits a three from the Hellespont. I wish I wasn’t in love with the Pacers…how awesome must it feel to be a Thunder fan…well, besides the whole “We stole Seattle’s team from them” part.
1:50 left in 1st
Durant hustles back to block a fast break layup (very reminiscent of Tayshaun Prince…I will now go hang myself in the bathroom), followed by Steph Curry dropping another trey. USA up 20-17.
1:10 left in 1st
Westbrook pulls the old Travis Best trick where he dribbles around for 20 seconds without even looking for a pass before foolishly picking up an offensive foul. Gotta love when your role players do that.
:50 left in 1st
Eric Gordon plays stellar defense on some poor white guy culminating with one of those blocks that never even leaves the guy’s hand. Now is where I’m tempted to mention that I used to play with him at the YMCA in Indy, but I hate people who namedrop.
:02 left in 1st
Durant breaks some guy’s ankles, and then gets pummeled at the basket. Westbrook skies in from the weak side and picks up the foul to make 2 free throws. USA 22, Turkey 17.
Westbrook muscles his way in for an and-one. There is really no other way to describe it. He reminds me of a running back that has already cut through the line and just needs to break the linebacker’s tackle in order to get into the secondary. If the NBA allowed hand-checking like they do in FIBA, Westbrook might be the only guard that was still able to penetrate.
Rudy Gay is the type of guy that can get 25 a game as long as he gets his 20 shots. Basically, he’s the worst possible player for this type of team. I hate Rudy Gay.
Rudy Gay takes the worst possible shot – a 17-footer behind the backboard – and buries it. I love Rudy Gay.
Number of times Westbrook has gotten switched onto a taller player: two. Number of times he has “muscled his way” into a steal: two. Love it.
Durant misses a wide-open three which causes Rudy Gay to punch some poor guy in the face as he drives to the basket. I love Rudy Gay.
Durant loses the ball after being quintuple teamed at half-court. Seriously. That’s how much respect he has earned at this tournament.
Rolando Blackmon is a coach for Turkey. Who knew? Is this allowed? Should this be allowed? I literally have no idea how I feel about this. On the one hand, if a COUNTRY came and asked me to coach for them, it would be awesome. On the other hand, that country is TURKEY. I still have no idea.
Andre Iguodala packs some big stiff from behind on a dunk attempt. I love Coach K, but when I heard that Iggy was not only making the team, but would actually be a starter…I was quite dubious. As it turns out, he has been our best defender and sparked several important runs all tournament. The lesson as always? Never doubt Coach K.
Durant absolutely gets leveled going to the basket. Obviously, the Turks are taking umbrage – and rightfully so – to Gay’s recent actions. I hate Rudy Gay.
Durant responds with his FOURTH three of the night. USA up ten.
I think it’s time to discuss Kevin Durant’s ceiling. I have a friend who swears up and down that he will be the greatest player of all time. I seriously doubt that, because I don’t think he’s a complete enough player. But what about the greatest SCORER of all time? He led the NBA in scoring at 21 years old – younger than anyone else in history. He’s 6’10, has a silky handle, and one of the more pure jumpers in the League.
I asked a friend of mine who is a HUGE Jordan fan, but also very level-headed about this type of thing this question: “If you put KD on the ’87 Bulls team, does he average 37 a game?” (I think this is the most impressive scoring record in the books) His answer? “I think he gets 40 a game, because of all the threes.”
So yeah, he’s not gonna be the GOAT, but I’m absolutely prepared to christen him the greatest scorer of all time.
Durant passes up an open look to feed Andre Iguodala for a wide open three. Of course it barely draws iron. This, among other reasons, is why I don’t think Durant ever comes close to Jordan. I’m just not quite sure he has the same desire to be a killer. I think he enjoys being universally loved by all of his teammates a little TOO much. At the other end, Hedo Turkoglu buries a three. USA up seven.
Durant decides, “Wait a minute. I’m the best player on earth right now” and drains another bomb. He’s now 5 of 8 from three. On second thought, he could absolutely have that killer instinct!
Another dumb FIBA rule at the Turkish end is followed by Durant burying a silky floater in the lane. I haven’t felt this way since watching Reggie in the Garden…and it’s still in the 2nd Quarter!
Anyone else think that this Savas guy that plays for Turkey looks like that jerk that used to date Pam on The Office? Just saying.
Eric Gordon misses another wide open three. Hey, I never said I taught him how to shoot.
“Mr. Big Shot” misses everything on a wide-open three from the top of the key. Rudy Gay comes up with a huge putback. I love Rudy Gay.
The Turkish crowd is absolutely on the edge of exploding. Unfortunately, no Turkish player can respond by finishing a play. Turkoglu leads a fast break and finds a man alone in the corner, but he misses short. Time out on the floor. USA up nine.
USA up by ten. Kevin Durant has 20 of our 42 points. By the way, the next time a camera guy doesn’t follow the flight of the ball on a full-court heave, I’m writing someone a letter at ESPN. Seriously, I defy one of you out there reading this to admit that you don’t hopefully follow every single full-court heave just hoping it might go in. I don’t care if he released it after the buzzer…GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT!!!
Meanwhile, on Twitter, Kenny the Jet Smith asks Jason Whitlock, “Are you beginning to believe me that Durant will be the best player in the NBA in two years?”
Whitlock responds, “No!!! ONE YEAR!!! Good call.”
Interesting. Let’s just agree that Kobe IS the best, but is most likely on the decline and somebody will catch him either this year or next. We have all assumed that LeBron would be that guy. At first glance, it appears to be a bit of a mismatch. After all, Durant is a great SCORER, but doesn’t LBJ beat him at everything else?
I’m not so sure. I once wrote about LeBron putting up ridiculous stats, not unlike you would for your own created player on a video game. You know what I’m talking about. You create your own 6’6” point guard, but cherry pick on defense for steals, and rush him underneath the basket to pad his rebounding stats. You also make sure that he has 50 points and 20 assists so you end up averaging an unbelievable triple-double. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you ARE a team-player. In fact, you are actually selfishly going for your own stats.
What if LeBron is like this? How many of us have seen him scowl at teammates for missing wide-open shots? How many of us see him fighting for rebounds in the end of a blow-out in order to get that triple-double. What if he is sadder about the missed assist than he is about the missed shot? I’m not saying LeBron isn’t talented enough to average a triple-double, but if that’s what he’s playing for instead of wins…then what?
To be honest, if I’m starting a team right now, and age is factored in, I think I pick Durant one, and then LeBron two.
Time for the second half.
One of the ugliest basketball possessions I have seen in a while ends with Chauncey Billups missing badly on another three. However, the wife (who just entered the room and has no idea what I’m watching) notices that, “They are really hustling right now. They never do that.” I completely agree. If they played like this in the NBA, basketball as we know and love it would be alive and kicking. She also says, “I don’t like the Turks. All they do is come to America for a little while so they can make money.” She is so observant.
Durant hits his second straight three and sneers at the Turkish crowd as he walks off the court. I have literally only seen three guys EVER give that look effectively. Jordan, Kobe, and Reggie Miller. If this continues, I might decide that he will be the greatest athlete of all time after it’s all said and done.
Mr. Kardashian (Lamar Odom) gets a huge put back. Of course, this gets the wife more excited than she has been all day.
The US plays great defense but can’t grab the rebound as it falls out of bounds. Durant screams in anger. LeBron would never react this way unless Big Z just ruined another one of his assists.
Durant passes up a layup to feed Iguodala who promptly takes too much time to unload and has the ball stripped off his leg. I actually like the play. KD really trying to get the other guys involved.
Gay goes up like a sissy and misses a finger roll. Turkey responds with a three. The US lead is down to 11. I hate Rudy Gay.
Durant, playing Center, skies for a rebound, and then feeds his buddy Russell Westbrook for his second three-pointer of the entire tournament. USA up 16, it might be our night.
Durant isolates his guy up top, dribbles once with his left, and then smoothly spins right to bury a contested 20-footer. He is absolutely UNGUARDABLE.
Westbrook lets that three-pointer make him a little too confident and his misses a quick 18-footer. Then he fouls a big man underneath to help the Turks cut the USA lead to 59-46.
A sloppy last minute ends the third quarter. Team USA 61, Turkey 48. Durant with 28.
A terrible pass from Derrick Rose draws the wife’s ire. When she decides it was a bad pass, it’s safe to say that it WAS a bad pass.
The USA get four quick fast break points, courtesy of Derrick Rose. The crowd is eerily quiet. I’ve always thought that the silence of a crowd on the road better than the explosion of your crowd at home. The fact that it’s the Turks that are quiet makes this moment unforgettable.
Lamar Odom beats the shot clock with a three from the corner prompting the wife to seemingly wake up and scream, “YAAAAY!” I can’t add anything to that. USA up 18.
Odom runs the floor and hits a layup to increase our lead to 20. The wife gives a very serious looking fist-pump. I just know that she and Khloe could be best friends in another life.
Odom has four more points, bumping up his second half total to 15. This leads to ESPN giving us a quick lesson on the differences between FIBA and NBA rules. Is there anyway for this to make any LESS sense? I mean come on. That would be like me walking into Rome and telling someone how to make spaghetti. If you are going to steal our sport, why are you trying to change it? You don’t see America adopting cricket and then changing some rules because “we know better.” Ridiculous.
Westbrook hits another three bringing the US lead back to 20. Danny Granger scowls from the bench. GO PACERS!!! You know how many Heat players are on this team? That’s right, zero. Let’s see, with this added experience making Granger tougher, and the new additions in Paul George and Darren Collison, maybe the Pacers could…ah nevermind. We will be mediocre. Again. Sigh.
With the USA up 15, the Turkish fans start cheering loudly for their team. I guess it’s admirable what they have accomplished. It’s just too bad they’re Turkish. (BTW, I really have nothing against Turkey, it’s just that when national pride is on the line, it’s ok to say things like that.)
Kevin Love enters the game, causing the wife to proclaim, “Oh, a white guy!” He then misses an easy layup as she notices, “That’s probably why he’s not playing, right?”
Gotta love blowouts!
Final: USA 81, Turkey 64
Tournament MVP: Kevin Durant
Somewhere in South Beach, LeBron James is watching this at a party with some friends.
Meanwhile, in LA, Kobe Bryant looks up from the bench press and notices the young buck. He’s finally got a worthy challenger. The number of elite teams in the NBA has now increased by one, because of the Durantula.
The rest of us? We are just lucky enough to partake.
* – Team USA photo credit: Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images via CBC.ca