Olympic basketball

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Kansas City Star

Basketball truly became an international sport in 1936, when former KU coach James Naismith traveled to Berlin and proudly watched the game he had invented become part of the Olympics. America's team won the first gold medal, thumping Canada 19-8, beginning more than six decades of U.S. domination of the sport at the Olympics.

But the rest of the world has caught up. At the 2004 Games in Athens, two other former KU coaches -- Larry Brown and Roy Williams -- will have to work miracles for the U.S. squad to take home the gold. ...

The current U.S. squad -- made up of National Basketball Association multimillionaires -- trashed the teamwork concept, losing a sloppy, embarrassing game to Puerto Rico 92-73. Brown, the team's head coach, endured the shocking upset from the sidelines along with Williams and other U.S. assistant coaches.

The American players couldn't shoot. They couldn't defend. And they certainly couldn't intimidate Puerto Rico. Apologists for the U.S. team contend it's tough to deal with international rules, which emphasize outside shooting, not the highlight-reel dunks often seen in the NBA. And several star players -- including Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and others -- chose not to represent their country in Athens.

Excuses aside, it's apparent that throwing a squad of NBA All-Stars onto the court no longer will lead to automatic victories at the Olympics.

To basketball purists across the globe, that may be encouraging news. They want the gold medal to go to players who mesh well as a team, not to players who just run around the court attempting to show off their individual skills.

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