In my opinion, the US women’s basketball team has the potential to send icons Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi off in style.
TOKYO, JAPAN – There will almost certainly be tears on Sunday, possibly after yet another gold medal celebration that has become the defining image of the US women’s basketball team. And at Saitama Super Arena, just a portion of them will be shed.
The most golden period of our country’s most bankable sports dynasty will come to an end for every young girl who has been inspired by their accomplishments or every spectator who has given women’s basketball a chance because of what they’ve done.
There will undoubtedly be outstanding American teams in the future. Their 54-year winning run in the Olympics seems set to continue for a long time. It won’t be the same without Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, who will compete for their fifth and final gold medal together on Sunday.
Breanna Stewart said, “We’re all aware of that.” “What Sue and D have done for USA Basketball is really remarkable. The idea that they’re going for five golds in a row is crazy, and the rest of us want to make sure we’re putting them in the best possible position to win. “
Nobody would argue that the United States’ continuous dominance in women’s basketball is an underdog tale at this time. Bird and Taurasi have been exceptional basketball players their whole lives, having been decorated high school recruiters, national champions at UConn, and ultimately WNBA stars. Winning gold medals for their nation was both a destiny and a responsibility, and they fulfilled both with playmaking flair and a duty to promote their sport at every opportunity.
So seeing them continue chasing greatness at this point in their careers – Bird is 40 years old, Taurasi was 39 earlier this year – is not something to take for granted. It’s indicative of why Team USA has become the powerhouse it is.
“Whether it’s the World Cup or the Olympics, our women’s national team program performs well because we receive complete dedication from our top players year in and year out,” said Team USA coach Dawn Staley, who was a member of three gold-medal winning teams. “You hear tales of a fantastic player or two or three being left off this squad at every Olympic Games, and it’s that kind of dedication that causes the issue. They make the sacrifice, they make the commitment, and you bring in a pretty darn strong squad when you’re at an event like this and playing with the greatest players in your nation and representing the United States. “
This run will stand out for a number of reasons if the US closes the deal on Sunday, as it is highly expected to do. The squad included six first-timers on the roster, which meant there was a lot of turnover compared to prior Olympic teams. Even players from the 2016 squad, like Brittney Griner, would have different responsibilities this time.
It wasn’t the simplest start. Squad USA lost back-to-back exhibitions against a WNBA All-Star team and the Australians after gathering in Vegas for a training camp in July. Nobody seemed concerned, but it did emphasize how different this job would be.
They also had no idea how strange and lonely living in Tokyo would be,
especially for players who had never experienced anything like it before. They all left the WNBA bubble in Orlando last year, stating they didn’t want to go through it again. The Olympic bubble turned out to be even more restricted,
especially because both the men’s and women’s teams from the United States stayed in hotels rather than the Olympic Village.
Stewart said, “It’s been difficult.” “We’re in the hotel, we don’t go anywhere, we can go to the men’s game at least to get out, but having that on top of playing basketball, playing on the biggest stage there is, makes me really proud of what we’re doing.”
But, in some ways, that’s how you win six – and perhaps seven – straight gold medals without losing a single game. You have no control over your surroundings or opponents,
but you do have power over the consistency of the process and the sincerity of your goal. These ladies are not to be trifled with. They just reappearance after reappearance.
“We get together at the hotel and do stuff together and spend our time away from our rooms,
and then we come to practice and come to the games ready to perform,” Griner added.
then “We realize what’s at stake. We came here to win the gold, regardless of the circumstances. Isolation, independence, or whatever it was, we knew we had to be experts and come here to grab the gold. “
It’s beautiful simplicity, but it’s the culture that’s kept America’s greatest players coming back time after time,
the formula that connects the past to the future. When Taurasi and Bird won their first gold, A’Ja Wilson was eight years old,
and today she is the team’s top player. Napheesa Collier isn’t playing much this time around, but she’ll be ready to lead by Paris 2024.
That’s how you pass along knowledge from generation to generation. That’s how you make sure this absurd run continues.
It’s no small feat to finish a five-Olympic career without losing a single game,
but Bird and Taurasi are on the brink of accomplishing just that. The squad hasn’t given it much thought or discussion,
but it’s clear that they can’t be sent home without a gold medal around their necks.
“Everyone here wants to win gold for himself, for us, for everyone who began this streak and brought us here,” Griner added.
“We want to win this gold medal for a variety of reasons,
so you’re going to witness some very excellent basketball in the gold medal game.”
You don’t get to send legends out in style every day, or even every Olympics. There would be no better way for the United States team to mark the end of an era in women’s basketball than to win.