USA vs. Great Britain Basketball: Americans Must Not Overlook Motivated Brits
Don't look now, folks, but Great Britain is fully capable of upsetting the United States when the two teams meet in an exhibition on Thursday night.
Sorry you guys, couldn't resist opening with a "joke." There is no way this loaded U.S. team should struggle in the least against Great Britain. But that doesn't mean they should overlook the Brits and assume an easy victory like they obviously did against Brazil.
This game means a lot to Great Britain, even if it is only an exhibition. From Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press (via Sports Illustrated):
Basketball has such little presence in Britain that FIBA, the sport's governing body, didn't immediately award the hosts the traditional automatic bid into the Olympic tournament. It wanted to be certain that there would be a legacy beyond the London Games, that support for the home team's program would spark interest in watching, playing and following the sport.
Sheesh. I'm glad FIBA was able to be convinced Great Britain deserved its automatic bid.
Thus sets up a momentous Olympics for the Brits. And as Mahoney found out, a game against the United States in this particular year is arguably the biggest moment in the history of British basketball:
"This is a massive opportunity for British basketball to get some oxygen, to breathe life into the sport in this country,'' said Chris Mitchell, who calls Britain's games for BBC Radio. "Team USA being here is arguably the biggest-ever game this country has hosted. It's arguably bigger than any game they'll play at the Olympics, because they'll only face USA if they get through their group and perhaps meet them in the quarterfinals. So this, this week, it's almost the climax to the history of British basketball. It's huge.''
How's that for motivation?
And while a victory over the United States would be akin to a national team from Greenland upsetting Brazil in soccer, don't assume the Brits are completely devoid of talent.
The team's star player is Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls, and it also boasts Joel Freeland, recently signed to the Portland Trail Blazers. The "big names" end there, however.
Still, the side should take comfort after watching Brazil battle the U.S. and lose in a much closer margin than the 80-69 score suggests. Yes, Brazil has a deeper, more talented squad than the Brits, but it certainly is nowhere near the caliber of Team USA.
This game will be close.
At the end of the day, the U.S. treats is exhibitions for what they are: glorified warm-up games. For Great Britain, this is so much more than that.
This is the chance to prove to the United Kingdom that basketball is a worthwhile sport and should be embraced. It's a chance to prove this British side isn't a joke.
That makes them dangerous, even against a far superior side. Team USA must be reminded that the Brits won't simply roll over and die. They might even be capable of the upset.
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