USA basketball powers forward to World Cup win

Dylan Snyder

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Illustration by Eddy Vazquez.

Over the course of the past month, some of the world’s best basketball players assembled in Barcelona, Spain for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Team USA was without some of its top eligible players, most notably Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard. Despite the fact that the U.S. was working with its 1B team, it was still able to bring home the gold after defeating Serbia 129-92.

This victory marked the first time in any sport that a team won four consecutive major championships. Team USA has now won the last two world cups, as well as the last two Olympic gold medals.

There was a time when such domination seemed impossible. During the Athens Olympics in 2004, the United States failed to even make the gold medal game. After falling to Argentina in the semi-finals, USA only managed to get the bronze medal in their signature team sport. It seemed that player apathy had doomed USA international basketball. After their embarrassing show in Athens, Team USA made sweeping changes to its program. The USA Basketball Association brought in legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski to restore the team aspect of the game. Coach Krzyzewski had a disappointing bronze soon after his appointment in the 2006 World Cup, but since then it has been nothing but gold for Team USA.

Despite the recent blowout wins for team USA, it was not as though there weren’t other contenders in the tournament. Spain and France both put forth formidable teams headed by NBA stars of the their own. With the last two number-one overall picks coming from Canada, it appears that a new wave of superstars are coming up to challenge the United States’ dominance.

As mentioned before, Team USA was deprived of some of the game’s top stars, but it turned into a chance for rising superstars to shine on the international stage. The Golden State Warriors combo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, affectionately known as the “Splash Brothers,” lead the perimeter game for the stars and stripes and were assisted by Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving. It was also the first game action for the oft-injured Derrick Rose in several months after undergoing a second serious knee surgery. Krzyzewski also seems to have been able to control the ill-tempered DeMarcus Cousins, who paired with Anthony Davis to form the tournament’s most intimidating duo of big men in the tournament.

Despite recent success, the future of the team is in doubt, with it being unknown how much longer Coach Krzyzewski might be at the helm. He has done an eight-year stint as the coach of our national team, but his job at Duke is not going to get any easier over the next few years as the trend of one-and-done college superstars continues. The team has a young and promising lineup, but as noticed with this generation of aging stars, players may choose to save their bodies for the NBA season instead of losing their offseason to international competition. The majority of the players on the U.S. national team had early ending seasons. We also saw a gruesome injury to the Pacers’ Paul George that will cost him the entire NBA season, so executives and coaches may be hesitant to give their blessing to their stars who want to represent their country. The United States has dominated international basketball for the last eight years, but all good things must come to an end.