FIBA Durant & Team USA Golden In Turkey

words_Brandon Richard

The United States Men’s National Basketball Team went into the 2010 FIBA World Championship with two big obstacles to overcome – their lack of size and lack of experience. So it seemed as if having to play one of the tallest teams in the tournament on their floor in front of a building filled with 15,000 rowdy fans to win the gold medal could prove to be a little too overwhelming for the young Americans. However, just the opposite occurred, as a gutsy and poised effort from Team USA resulted in a 81-64 victory, and the team’s first World Championship since 1994.

FIBA Durant & Team USA Golden In TurkeyOnce again, the story of the game was the play of Kevin Durant. Continuing where he left off in the semi-finals against Lithuania, Durant got the U.S. off to a hot start by knocking down his first three shots and scoring eight of the team’s first 12 points. Turkey’s Hedo Turkoglu responded in a big way, going on a 8-2 personal scoring run to hand the Turks a 15-14 advantage with a little more than four minutes to play in the period. The United States then turned up the defensive intensity, holding Turkey to just one basket in the remaining minutes for a 22-17 lead at the end of the quarter.

Russell Westbrook, who proved to be a spark plug throughout the tournament, started the second quarter off by successfully converting a three-point play. After the United States’ offense stalled, going without a point for a three-minute stretch in the frame, Durant once again showed why he was the best player in the tournament. The scoring machine  rolled off nine straight points, including two three-pointers to push the lead to 10 points, which held up at half-time.

The proverbial sports dagger was placed in the hearts of the Turkish collective when, who else but Kevin Durant, knocked down two straight shots from downtown to start the second half. Durant then gestured to the crowd, letting them know that he had no intention of leaving the building without a championship. From there, the Turks were never able to cut the lead down to single digits, and a continued spirited defensive effort in the fourth quarter sealed the deal.

With the win, the United States ends a 16-year drought at the FIBA World Championship. The successful tournament run is the result of long-term plan put in place by USA Basketball Director Jerry Colangelo and Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Krzyzewski earned his first World Championship after his previous two appearances ended in bronze medals.

In the future, this tournament may very well be remembered as the foundation of a legendary career for Kevin Durant. While players like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were already established superstars prior to having success on the international stage, Durant was just on the cusp after a tremendous NBA season that saw him become the youngest player to ever win a scoring title. Now, with his success in Istanbul, Durant appears to be on his way to becoming a household name. The pressure was put on his shoulders, and he responded like the great players do – with a championship. Durant’s play also made him the obvious recipient of the Naismith Trophy for tournament MVP.

Also not to be forgotten are the unsung heroes of the tournament: the scrappy defense of Russell Westbrook, the efficient production of Kevin love, the rebounding and fast-break ignition of Lamar Odom, and the sharpshooting of Eric Gordon. The truth is, everybody on this team deserves glory for what happened in Turkey. A player like Danny Granger, who scores 25 to 30 points a night for the Indiana Pacers, was simply a role player for Team USA in Istanbul. The way he handled his role on the team is an example of the kind of spirit that enabled the 12 men who made the trip to come home with the hardware.

Now the wait begins for an all-new NBA season, which tips off on October 26th. Be sure to keep checking Eastbay for more basketball coverage.

images via Yahoo