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The Redeem Team's Passion

Rufus on Fire continues its ongoing series of quotes from America's Dream Team: The Quest for Olympic Gold, about the 1992 Dream Team...

PAGE 198, Charles Barkley on Brazilians talking trash
"...They said they were going to be our worst nightmare. They said we weren't taking this seriously and all were doing was playing golf and goofing around. Well, we'll see Friday. We'll see who is whose worst nightmare. I can't wait. They're in trouble--and I think they know it.


We now live in a world where the Argentinians can start a group of NBA players (Ginobili, Nocioni, Hermann, Oberto, and Scola), and a healthy Spanish national team can conceivably run a full rotation of NBA players plus a consensus lottery pick (Calderon, Navarro, Delfino, M. Gasol, P. Gasol, Fernandez, Garbajosa, and Rubio). From 1992-2004, the assumption was that the USA team's talent would carry the day, and token effort would suffice, but international tournament failures showed that the USA couldn't take that attitude anymore, no matter the talent on hand. Barkley's quote is indicative of a desire to play with passion and power, but it's kind of hard to play with that passion when the other team is asking for your autograph before and after the game and can't stop gawking during the game.

The current USA Basketball team is clearly more talented than its competition, but the competition is talented enough that the USA must play with passion in order to dominate. The shock of this Olympics tournament is the unwavering passion the USA team has displayed throughout. Part of it comes from the theme of redemption that seems to have infiltrated every aspect of the team's identity, and how conscientious the NBA superstars have been about redeeming past teams. But the passion is back also because Coach K is at the helm, though that shouldn't be surprising.

Mike Krzyzewski is publicly demure, a humble, conservative, straight-laced military man. In short, I don't think anyone thought Coach K's schtick would work on NBA stars. Thing is, his schtick might actually be perfect for an NBA all star team. Where other coaches tried to control and micromanage everything on the court (I'm looking at you, Larry Brown), Coach K set up a structure within which everyone could do his thing; he let great players be great players and didn't impose himself upon them. Kobe Bryant didn't have to change to be a part of this team. Neither did Chris Bosh or Tayshaun Prince, for that matter. He simply made it okay and acceptable for each of them to play 20 minutes or fewer, and they've responded with full effort for all those minutes.

It's what Coach K does at Duke every year, so I shouldn't have been surprised.

(UPDATE: And now I see Alan Paul wrote something similar for NBCOlympics.com)