Kevin Durant was just five years old the last time the Americans won the FIBA World Championship gold medal.
Sixteen years later, Durant and team USA have returned America to glory gold in a 81-64 victory over Turkey.
“I just wanted to come over here and win,” Durant said. “That was my mindset from day one, was to come over here and try to get a gold. Knew it was going to be tough. That was all that was in my mind. None of the other stuff, global marketing, none of that stuff entered my mind.
“My teammates do a great job of helping me, push me every day. The guys here on the USA team pushed me every day to be the best, gave me confidence. I was just trying to win it for everybody back at home. This is a great feeling. That’s all I’m worried about.”
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski agreed with his MVP’s statements.
“This is the best; this is the best,” Krzyzewski said following the team’s 17-point gold medal win. “With this group, they really have represented our country, USA Basketball so well. Such a young group. They played with enthusiasm. They played great defense throughout.
"Not much was expected. I shouldn’t say that. They’re always expecting a lot. But most people didn’t think we could win. But they kept getting better. Our defense was terrific.
“The two veterans, [Lamar] Odom was sensational tonight. [Andre] Iguodala over the last two games, his defense, on two of the best players in the tournament, (indiscernible) and [Hidayet] Turkoglu, was really good. We had such big bench contributions. I’m just so happy, so fulfilled. This is as good as it gets right now.”
So, what does MVP Durant think of the “B” team status that was branded onto his USA team entering the 2010 World Championships?
“Yeah, I think that was everybody’s motivation, especially coming back to the United States, people who really doubted us and said it was going to be tough for us to win,” Durant said. “We came out and proved everybody wrong. We worked hard in practice, were focused in. Coach made sure he did a great job of letting us know what we were doing out here.
“All we came to get was a gold. To play for a great coach like that, that really knows what he wants, is a great feeling. So it was exciting to come out here and win and also to prove people wrong.”
And as I said from the get-go, Coach K is absolutely—no doubt about it—a major tilting factor in bringing back the gold to the United States.
“We didn’t have an identification; they were called the ’B’ team,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “I think that’s over with. I think they established who they are.
“Kevin Durant, welcome to the international stage in terms of your ability as a player. That was great for him because he’s such a terrific young man. So a great job by everyone involved. It’s great for our program. We go from here.”
Coach K summed up the entire event perfectly when asked how tasteful it is to win the FIBA World Championships gold medal this year:
“We haven’t won the World Championship since 1994,” Krzyzewski said. “We as a country are trying to show great respect for the World Championships, which I’m not sure that we did maybe a decade ago. So to win it—and we know how important it is—means a great deal. It’s twice as big as the Olympics in teams. But the Olympics are pretty good, too.”
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org