After the USA Basketball team's thrilling win in the Gold Medal game against Spain—yes, I stayed up to watch it—it became apparent that USA won because of all the reasons pundits said they would.
They played as a team. They weren't overly-egotistical prima donnas who wanted to play a glorified street game, a la 2004. They really, really cared about winning—and it showed in the final minutes of the gold-medal game, when the multimillionaires celebrated like a team that had just won their high school state championship.
So who were the catalysts in this gold medal run? While the team ran deep in talent, it was obvious who ran the team. Late in the close win over Spain, a few key players stood out in the win.
Without further ado; the top five most valuable players for the gold medal-winning USA Basketball Team:
5. LeBron James
The best athlete on the floor at all times, and arguably the best basketball player in the world. However, James is only the fifth-most valuable player on this team.
Why, you ask? Well, it's no fault of James', but often he found himself on the bench in foul trouble. But during James' time on the floor, his athleticism proved to be leaps and bounds ahead of his opponents.
The team's offense often ran through James, as the ball would get dumped down to LeBron at the free-throw line. He would, in turn, make a decision to dish it to the corner for a three, dump it inside to Chris Bosh or Dwight Howard, or take it himself.
He didn't often make the wrong decision. But the fact that he was one of the primary ballhandlers for the team is evident in the stats. He led the team in turnovers with 17, but was also second on the team in assists and points per game, and third in rebounds.
4. Dwyane Wade
Team USA's leading scorer often took over games like it was the '06 NBA Finals. When the team was in trouble and their lead was in jeopardy, the ball was almost always in Wade's hands, as he slashed to the hole for either a nifty layup or drawing contact to get to the free-throw line.
Wade got to the charity stripe more then any other player—however, he hit only 65 percent of his free throws.
But his value could not be overstated, as his propensity to hit big three-pointers—leading the team by shooting 47 percent from three-point range)—was always apparent.
3. Chris Bosh
Perhaps the most surprising player on this list, Bosh's value is monumental, given that the only two true big-men on the squad were Bosh and Howard. Howard often struggled to get going and fell into foul trouble, leading to more playing time for Bosh—who took advantage, leading the team in rebounding.
Additionally, when the team had their shooting struggles, Bosh proved to be even more valuable, scoring a huge percentage of his points on alley oops, tip-ins, and putbacks. This, in turn, led to a high shooting percentage, as he led the team by shooting 77 percent for the tournament.
He also got to the free throw line more often then anyone on the team except for Wade, and connected on 86 percent of his free throws.
2. Kobe Bryant
It was a tough decision to put Bryant at number two instead of number one, given how instrumental he was in putting the Spaniards away late in Sunday morning's game. Bryant took over the offense at times, hitting key shot after key shot. Each time Spain made a run to cut the lead to two or three, Bryant would come down and knock down a key three-pointer or draw a foul to keep the USA in front.
The only thing that keeps Kobe out of the top spot was his inconsistent shooting throughout the tournament. He shot only 46 percent for the tournament, and32 percent from three-point range. Couple that with an assist-turnover ratio of 17:15, and it just wasn't quite enough for Bryant to garner the number-one spot, clutch as he may be.
1. Chris Paul
Just like in the NBA season, Paul led his team without putting up the ridiculous offensive stats of the likes of Bryant, James, or Wade. But Paul was the leader of the offense, always making the right decision at the right time.
Paul's assist-turnover ratio was a ridiculous 33:9, and although he averaged only eight points per game, he still shot 50 percent from the floor.
Paul was also second to James on the team with 18 steals for the tournament. But again, his value cannot be understated, as he would do things to help the team that often don't show up on a stats sheet.
He would make a pass to set up an assist, and his defense against guards such as Jose Calderon, Carlos Delfino, C.J. Bruton, and Spanouli Valleious was key in keeping teams at bay.
So while it's tough to pick a Most Valuable Player in a team so loaded with stars, Paul stood out among the rest. It may not have been in the stats and he may not have been as flashy as the rest—but without Paul, this team may not have been as successful as they were.