End of an era in Rio

2016-08-06T17:13:22+00:00 2016-08-18T18:10:11+00:00.

Aris Barkas

06/Aug/16 17:13


It’s very difficult to define when a circle starts and when it ends. Olympics help on that and in this case Rio is expected to be the last chapter of something much, much bigger

By Aris Barkas/ barkas@eurohoops.net

It’s very difficult to define when a circle starts and when it ends. Olympic Games help on that and in this case Rio is expected to be the last chapter of something much, much bigger.

For the last 16 years basketball exploded all around the world and that has to do with a generation of international stars which is now ready to leave the courts. While Argentina, Spain, France or Lithuania established themselves as the teams which were ready to challenge the dominance of USA, the landscape of the sport changed once more, a transformation which can be credited back to 1992 and to the original dream team.

Things had gone full circle in 2002, when an unsung US team which included among others Paul Pierce finished just 6th on the FIBA World Championship at Indianapolis. Yugoslavia – practically Serbia and Montenegro – Argentina and Spain beat the USA in that tournament and basketball was clearly not America’s game any more.

The situation remained the same in 2004 Olympics, when USA was beaten by Puerto Rico, Lithuania and Argentina in the semifinal, finishing third despite having a roster which included Hall of Famers Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan, but also the young trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

And then things changed. Before the 2006 FIBA World Championship, USA decided finally to build continuity in their national team, since clearly a team of NBA players with no chemistry couldn’t get the job done. Legendary Mike Krzyzewski was appointed as coach and from the top players called, only Kobe Bryant was missing. Once again it was not enough. Greece beat the US in the semifinal, the only defeat of Krzyzewski on team’s USA bench, Spain without injured Pau Gasol went on to win gold and the last US gold on the 2000 Olympics was just a memory.

Between 2004 and 2006 you can argue that a new circle had started. While US tried to get back on top of the world putting real effort and resources in its plan, the golden generations of Argentina, Spain and Greece had blocked their way to the top, like the team of Serbia in 2002.

The circle of that Greek national team was concluded much earlier, but for Argentina, Spain and France – one of the few great national teams of our times which has not beaten the US – Rio is the last dance. And once more, things have changed.

USA are back on top, having won every big tournament since 2008 with relative ease as only Spain in the 2008 final managed to give them a real game. It’s the last summer during which “Coach K” will be sitting on the bench and an other legend, Gregg Popovich is ready to replace him. It’s obvious that this tournament will close a more than interesting basketball chapter than included the US fall from grace and their redemption. And in theory, there’s no contender that can create an upset this time.

However, you can’t but watch the last run of Manu’s wild bunch, Tony Parker’s swan song with France and Pau Gasol’s resilience and majesty. Unfortunately the athletes were not in the spotlight of the Rio Games – and for good reasons – however one way or an other, history will be made on the basketball courts.