In the summer of 2008, the Beijing Olympic Games were played in China, where in the grand final the United States won the Gold by beating Spain by 118-107, in a deceptive result, since a minute and a half from the end the difference was only 4 points. One of the best finals of the Olympic Games that is remembered for the quality and good play of both teams. The USA recovered the Gold after 8 years of crossing in the desert and Spain equaled its silver 24 years later
In the semifinals, the United States defeated Argentina 101-81, in the other Spain defeated Lithuania 91-86. In the fight for the bronze, Argentina won by defeating Lithuania by 87-75.
Spain and the United States uncorked the exceptional beauty that a basketball match can give of itself in an Olympic final to the greatest glory of the best Spanish generation in history. The scoreboard said that Spain lost; that the redeem team effectively redeemed itself after eight years of misery, but sometimes, few, a game goes far beyond a scoreboard, a gold medal. That was the case. Whoever saw it, whoever followed the vicissitudes of Pau Gasol’s wonderful fifth since he planted his first seed in the junior World Cup in 1999, was more comforted than many times when he sang victory.
The excitement and admiration for what was happening on the court of the majestic Beijing Olympic Pavilion fused the notion of time into a spark. The Spanish team turned the talent, the claw and the wonderful sensation that its components transmit to enjoy squeezing themselves to the maximum, playing in team, without any complex, without any reserve.
When it wasn’t Pau, it was Marc, and when it wasn’t, it was Felipe Reye’s killer instinct. Aíto’s men limited the loss of balls, ordinarily fatal to the Americans.
Only the formidable NBA stradivarius battery, enlivened by its top tenors -Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade- and seasoned by teamwork in the background, could bring down the colossal Spanish replica. Bryant, in particular, won his first Olympic gold. It was he who saved his team’s skin when the Spaniard’s onslaught, well planted on the pitch, spirited, acting at a superlative level, came close to the impossible. The reserve driver was on because, in addition to Calderon not being able to play, Raul Lopez was out of focus and several players were on the verge of elimination for fouls. It didn’t matter.
Revolutionized by the impetus and bravery of Rudy Fernandez, Spain gave a blow of kidneys at the start of the third quarter, was placed at four points (67-71) and from that moment the Americans passed them canutas. His coach had to ask for one, two dead times, to try to guide his players on how to hole the Spanish defense, sometimes coupling, other in zone.
The Americans added to gusts. They didn’t feel at ease. They had no mattress on the scoreboard like in the second quarter (44-58), during the only phase in which, stealing a couple of balls and capturing rebounds in attack, they managed to run and have more throws. It seemed that the beating of the first match could be repeated in the group stage (82-119). A mirage.
Aíto, in that instant, played a trick. He rested Ricky, immense in the direction of the team but exhausted, and placed Navarro on base. The strategy paid off. Navarro had the day. Kidd, Paul or Willams, the base in turn, and the American defense were seen and desired with their shots and penetrations. When it wasn’t Pau Gasol, it was his brother Marc, and when it wasn’t, the versatility of Carlos Jiménez and the killer instinct of Felipe Reyes in the offensive rebound led them headlong.
Wade’s and Anthony’s trebles gave life to their team at times. They regained an 11-point advantage (82-91). Rudy’s exit in the last quarter ended up freezing their blood (89-91). There were eight minutes left. They were going to suffer, yes. Spain limited the loss of balls that usually condemns the rivals of the United States. Not even the elimination of Rudy, with three minutes to go, discouraged him, although in that action Bryant, with a triple plus a free kick (99-108), began to give air to his team, which totaled 13 three pointers.
With 105-111 on the scoreboard, Jiménez missed a triple that could put a little more spice to a game of anthology, with both teams looking for without complex and with success the basket rival, providing quality and spectacle, a gift for the spectator. Only some arbitral decisions were left over, specially a technique to Ricky when everything was already said, and also certain disproportionate gestures of the components of the redeem team. But it was a game and the Americans understood that it was essential all the preparation and artillery that gathered this time to bring down a selection like the Spanish, in full maturity of its key players and with a promising future attending to the immense game of a teenager like Ricky, who ratifies every day that happens that he is not intimidated neither rivals nor the importance of appointments. The youngest medalist in the history of Olympic basketball again caused a sensation, as did the entire Spanish team.
The 24th of August 2008 will live on in the memory of Spanish basketball. On August 11, 1984, when the whole of Spain stopped sleeping to watch television, the national team battled the American galaxy in another Olympic final and lost 96-65. The team’s beloved coach, Antonio Diaz Miguel, then said, «Maybe we won’t live this fact again. The good Antonio must have admitted from heaven that he was wrong. Twenty-four years later, the Spanish team returned to play the final against all the jewelry of the NBA and was a couple of steps away from winning the Olympic title.
United States 118
*Kidd – 2p, 1r.
*Bryant – 20p, 6a.
*James – 14p, 6r.
*Anthony – 13p, 1r.
*Howard – 8p, 5r.
Paul – 13p, 5a.
Williams – 7p, 1r.
Wade – 27p, 4br.
Prince – 6p, 2r.
Bosh – 8p, 7r.
Boozer – 0p.
Redd – 0p.
*Rubio – 6p, 6r.
*Navarro – 18p, 4a.
*Jimenez – 12p, 3r.
*Reyes – 10p, 7r.
*P.Gasol – 21p, 6r.
B.Rodriguez – 2p, 1r.
Fernandez – 22p, 2a.
Mumbru – 2p, 2a.
Garbajosa – 3p.
M.Gasol – 11p, 5r.
Lopez – 0p, 1r.