LeBron James couldn't have said it any better.
"That'll probably go down as one of the greatest Olympic games ever," he told ESPN's Chris Sheridan after the U.S. closed out Spain 118-107 in the gold-medal game of the 2008 Games.
The game itself was brilliant. Both the U.S. and Spain played their highest level of basketball in an intense competition that came down to the wire. But there was something else to it as well. The result justified the additional work Team USA had put in to erase the disappointment and disarray of the 2004 Games.
Under the direction of former Phoenix Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo, the U.S. national team underwent a complete overhaul in 2005. Additionally, Colangelo found the best leader possible, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, to take on the role of head coach.
In Beijing, the changes paid off. The U.S. reached the final against Spain, a team they had beaten by more than 30 points in the prelims, with an undefeated record.
In the finale, Spain refused to be so easily defeated again. The defending world champs cut the American lead to two points with just over eight minutes to play in the game. A few minutes later, however, the U.S. capitalized in key moments. Kobe Bryant completed a four-point play down the stretch, giving the U.S. a nine-point lead. Then, with just over two minutes to play, Dwyane Wade hit a killer three to give the U.S. a seven-point lead that never faded.
After the game, Coach K pointed out the difference maker: "We played with great character in one of the great games in international basketball history. Because if we didn't have great character, we would not have been able to beat another team that had great character."