Team USA Beat France in the Basketball Final to Win an Olympic Gold Medal
On August 7, 2021, Team USA made history with a fourth straight Olympic gold in the men’s basketball final.
The American team’s long history of dominating Olympic basketball was shattered in their opening Tokyo 2020 match, when they were defeated by France. The Europeans fell short in the rematch on the tournament’s last day, however, with pundits lauding Kevin Durant for his performance for Team USA.
The Nets star played more minutes and scored more points than anyone else on the court, driving Team USA to an 87–82 win, the narrowest winning margin in either a men’s or women’s final since 1972. Speaking after the match, Durant said it was incredible to be part of such a special journey. The win earned Durant his third Olympic gold medal.
Avenging their first-round loss, the win marked the American team’s 16th Olympic gold medal in basketball. Despite their previous victory in the group stages, which made France the first team to win against Team USA in the Olympics since 2004, France could not repeat that achievement in the final.
Here’s what you need to know about Durant and some of Team USA’s other star players:
Born in Washington DC in 1988, in his youth Kevin Durant was a basketball phenomenon. He was regarded as one of the best potential players in Washington DC in his early years at high school. In his senior season, Durant was crowned an All-American.
Durant attended the University of Texas, leading the Big 12 Conference as a freshman with a scoring average of 25.8 points per game, making history as the first freshman to earn National College Player of the Year honors. Durant joined the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007. Averaging 20.3 points per game, Kevin Durant walked away with the NBA Rookie of the Year award’s winner in his first season with Seattle.
Durant joined the Seattle Supersonics at a time of increasing acrimony between the team and the city. After the city refused to provide the team with a publicly funded arena, the Supersonics threatened to relocate, a move that alienated the team’s fans, triggering a slump in game attendance. Despite several outstanding performances, Durant could not heal the rifts. The Sonics subsequently relocated to Oklahoma City, where they were renamed the Thunder.
Durant’s performance continued to improve after the move, with the player increasing his scoring, assists, rebounds, and steals throughout his second season. In the 2009–10 season, Kevin Durant began a run of five consecutive All-Star game appearances and All-NBA honors. He subsequently helped the Thunder to advance to the NBA finals, although they lost to the Miami Heat.
Durant went on to play nine seasons in total for the team before signing with the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Kevin Durant is credited with driving the Golden State Warriors to victory in back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018. Durant experienced a significant setback in the 2019 finals, sustaining an Achilles injury. He subsequently joined the Nets.
Many tout Kevin Durant as the most talented player in the NBA. The 11-time NBA All-Star has been recognized with numerous coveted awards and accolades, including being named NBA Finals MVP in 2017 and 2018; NBA Scoring Champion in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014; and NBA Champion in 2017 and 2018.
Other star players in the Tokyo 2020 final include the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, who was quick to celebrate on Twitter following his first Olympic victory. Tatum was not a starter at Tokyo 2020, coming off the bench to support Durant.
Nevertheless, Tatum got into his stride in the last quarter of the final, his input crucial in several marquee performances. As France clamored for a comeback, Tatum’s 21 minutes of play proved critical to the Team USA win, producing 19 points and seven rebounds.
Jayson Tatum told reporters that winning gold was an amazing feeling, explaining that he had dreamed of playing in the Olympic team since high school. Tatum said that despite the challenging climate, with players unable to bring their families along due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was still an incredible experience.
On the defensive end, Bam Adebayo gave an impressive performance, becoming the first Miami Heat player since LeBron James to win an Olympic gold. The center started all six Olympic games for the American team, helping his team to finish 5–1 at the Tokyo Games.
Although Adebayo did not feature as a scorer for Team USA, he was nonetheless an integral part of their motion offence, his defensive versatility and dribble hand-off capabilities playing an essential role in the win. Speaking of his time with Team USA, Bam Adebayo said he thought the experience would make him a much better player, simply for the fact that, if needs be, he could call on one of his teammates and ask them questions.
About the French Team
France proved to be a worthy opponent for Team USA. Led by defensive specialist Rudy Gobert, a total of eight French players had NBA experience. Speaking with reporters after the game, Kevin Durant praised the French team for their staying power, saying they played hard every minute on the floor.