USA Women's Basketball: An Appreciation of Team USA Dominance and Hoping It Continues in Rio
By ROB KNOX (@knoxrob1)
The late Wilt Chamberlain used to lament nobody roots for Goliath.
Well, Wilt here’s somebody rooting for the Goliath disguised as the United States Women’s Basketball juggernaut to squash the competition over the next two weeks at the Olympics in Rio.
Team USA, which hasn’t lost in the Olympics since 1992, is an overwhelming favorite as it has everything needed to become the last team standing.
There’s power, height, speed, shooting, defensive tenacity, depth and cut-your-heart-out-of-your-chest-and-hand-it-to-you-while-beating swagger. If Team USA brings its "A" game, nobody stands a chance. The only folks rooting for competitive games are television executives.
Of course, the ruthless dominance Team USA has displayed shouldn’t be taken for granted.
It should be appreciated. It’s difficult to consistently perform at a high level when everybody is expecting it.
Fortunately, Team USA has the perfect coach that understands the demands of excellence and blowing teams away in UConn coach Geno Auriemma. After all, Auriemma and his Huskies live with these expectations all the time.
“What I hope happens is that us, if we were fortunate enough to win a gold medal, that that’s a big deal,” Auriemma said earlier this week at Team USA’s first press conference in Rio.
“Instead of, you know what the big deal is, if we lose. Which is unfortunate, because this team, these players, these women have accomplished so much. They’ve done so much. And maybe because they’ve won so much, they probably don’t get the respect they truly deserve for how dominant they have been.”
U.S. Olympic women’s basketball teams have earned a record seven gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal, and are 58-3 all-time in Olympic competition.
In the past 20 years, the highly successful USA Basketball Women’s National Team program, currently ranked No. 1 in the world by FIBA, has posted an 86-1 slate in major international competitions.
Fueled by its determined and dedicated veteran trio of Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, Team USA has been a colossus of a champion. The team is in a great position to add to its amazing legacy. Playing on their fourth straight Olympic team, the fiery triumvirate are the leaders of the team.
Despite their margin of victories in the last five Olympics being 28.6 points (1996), 21.7 (1992), 23.8 (2004), 37.6 (2008) and 34.4 (2012), Catchings, Taurasi and Bird don’t take anything for granted and have made sure their teammates remained focused.
“I understand that right now we are standing at five gold medals in a row, hopefully going for our sixth, and yeah, that’s a lot of time,” Bird said. “People see that streak, and they view it as dominant, which it is, but each team has its own journey, its own path through this entire experience. And contrary to what the scoreboard might tell you, it’s really not that easy.
“And yes, have we been dominant, the U.S. as a whole? Absolutely, but there are no guarantees. And I’ve been on a team at the 2006 World Championship that lost. I know what that’s like. And to be honest … for those that were on that team, that’s a driving force.”
Brilliance should always be cherished and embraced. Not frowned upon. There have been those that have argued the games are boring and there’s no joy when you know the outcome before the game begins.
While those opinions have some merit, they should enjoy the elegance that Team USA plays with, the exquisite ball movement and the exciting finishes around the basket.
Terrific women sacrificing their individual excellence for the good of the team.
Team USA also features veterans Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Angel McCoughtry, Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus, all members of the 2012 Olympic Team that won gold in London. Each player is ready to embrace their role and do whatever it takes to add to their gold medal collection.
Another reason this team is fun to watch is the way they perform. Each member of this team is great in their own right, but the best gift is watching them lift each other to unimaginable heights.
They also play with an effervescence that radiates joy, fun, passion and so much energy. Not saying that other countries don’t play with these same qualities, but for this team and this time, this is awesome to see and experience.
“I just feel like the longer USA Basketball is around and great players are participating, the better the teams have gotten,” Moore said. “Thirty years from now, there might be a team that is better than ours, but I feel like looking from top to bottom, the talent, the experience, the records of some of the players coming in, it’s just really unbelievable to see. We do have the ability to make our own destiny.”
The three Olympic rookies have already accomplished plenty during their careers. The newcomers to the team are Elena Delle Donne (reigning WNBA MVP and 2013 Rookie of the Year), Britney Griner (two-time defensive player of the year and 2014 WNBA champion) and Breanna Stewart (a four-time national champion at UConn as well as a three-time national Player of the Year).
The pieces are in place for something special to occur over the next two weeks.
“I’m honored to wear that USA across my chest and know what it means and what it means to represent the history of women’s basketball and what these incredible women have done before us,” Delle Donne said.
“Now, it’s time for us to pave our own path. We know you can’t just put the jersey on and win the game. We know that every single team is going to put their best effort against us and give us their best shot. So, we have to be ready, we have to be focused and we have to continue to improve daily.”
So sit back, relax and appreciate the greatest show on Earth over the next two weeks. No matter what happens, it’ll be something to savor whether its margin of victory is one point or 100 points.
“Whether it is their first time, or their fourth time,” Auriemma said. “If the look of them has been any indication these last couple of weeks, this team is really, really ready.
"They’re obviously conscious of how hard it’s going to be. They’re really well aware of how good all the other countries are, and they know not to take anything for granted.
"But, I’ve been around this national team since 2009, and this is probably the most prepared team, the most anxious team to get started that I’ve been around. This weekend can’t come fast enough.”