Getting Ready for Rio: Men’s Basketball

It’s hard to believe that we’re now only 4 months away from the summer Olympics in Rio. As the opening date comes closer we’re sure to hear a lot more about specific athletes and how they excel in their individual sport or how a team is proving to be a great contender and that is exactly what is happening with basketball! Basketball is one of those sports where a country’s players may play all over the world but always come back together to represent their country.

The NBA playoffs are set to start in a couple days. This is the perfect platform to see who steps up to carry their team on to win and who crumbles under the pressure. So far the Golden State Warriors have been the team to watch. They have about three players who are reliable three point shooters including the likes of Steph Curry.

Steph Curry

If by some chance you’ve managed to get through the last couple months without hearing his name I have to congratulate you for surviving under the rock you’ve been under. Every basketball highlight reel has at least one of his shots and now that his team is on a 72 game win record this season, I expect he’s going to be what they compare others to when he’s not playing. He didn’t play for the USA in the last Olympics but I expect (along with everyone else) that his name is going to be near the top of whatever list there is for choosing the team.

Another big topic in the basketball world is Kobe’s retirement.

Kobe Bryant

The timing of it all means that he won’t be playing for the Olympics this year. One would think that with a career spanning so many years (he was drafted into the NBA straight out of high school in 1996) that he would have just as much experience playing for the national team but he’s only played in 2 Olympic Games. It just so happens that the two years that he’s played brought the Americans gold medals after an upset in 2004 which leaves the question, was it because of him that they won? Injury and personal reasons kept him from playing early on in his career but after playing in the 2012 Olympics he announced his retirement from the national team. This year he also announced his retirement from the game with his last games coming this week. The fact that he’s not playing in this Olympics could possibly leave the team without the one key that brought them gold in the last two games. How will the team perform without him being there?

For the US team there are the usual names that one would expect to make the team such as LeBron James who is no stranger to Olympic Basketball.

LeBron James

He’s represented the USA at the Olympics since 2004. There is also Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul who all were part of the gold medal winning team in the last Olympics in London. The NBA provides whoever chooses the national team with a long list of options to choose from.

All of this is not to say that the USA team is the only team with some heavy hitters. There are a good set of players from the Spanish national team that play for teams in the NBA. First there are the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc.

Pau and Marc Gasol.jpg

Pau made a name for himself, being named Rookie of the year in 2002, as well as from playing for the Lakers with Kobe. Along with some other names from the NBA like Jose Calderon from the New York Knicks and Serge Ibaka from the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Spanish team put up enough of a fight for the silver medal behind the Americans. This shows that even though it may seem that the American team has the advantage of having the league based in the USA, the Spanish league is also one to be watched. Numerous Spanish players have made the change from Spanish league basketball to the NBA and performed well.

The Spanish team has gotten the silver behind the American team for the last two Olympic Games. This can be a sign that this is the continuing trend but you can’t forget that in 2004, when Argentina took the gold medal, the American team only managed the bronze medal with the Spanish team not even placing. Just goes to show that an upset is possible and that to get their third gold medal, it will take the entire team playing as one to repeat and to hold off the Spaniards.

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