Men’s Basketball came to a satisfying conclusion at the
2020 2021 Tokyo Olympics. If you’re in the Americas and stayed up late last night, you may have seen Gregg Popovich and Team USA fight tooth and nail to beat France 87-82 and win the gold medal in a revenge match from their opening game of group stage and all the way back to their elimination from the 2019 World Cup. They were naturally led by Kevin Durant’s 29 points, after he had scored 30 points in the gold medal matches of both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
The victory was especially satisfying for Gregg Popovich, who has been waiting for this moment since 1972 when he was surprisingly the last player cut from Team USA ahead of the Munich Olympics. It was also a bit of redemption after his relatively poor record as USA’s head coach — which is not entirely his fault given the timing and circumstances in which he inherited the team — led to stark criticism from the media following their opening loss to France, and rumors of players’ alleged dissatisfaction with him leaked out.
Whether any of that was true or not will likely never be known — I personally lead towards “no” — but in the end it doesn’t matter. Gregg Popovich is an Olympic gold medalist, fulfilling a life long dream of his, as is Spurs forward Keldon Johnson: the second youngest NBA player to win with Team USA behind a 19 year-old Anthony Davis.
And despite the criticism Pop received for promoting his own player up from the Select Team after Bradley Beal had to drop out due to COVID concerns, Draymond Green wants everyone to know the important role KJ played for a team that, due to the delayed NBA schedule, had very little time to bring everything together.
Draymond Green, feeling good after ceremony, wraps arm around Keldon Johnson. “We got a young 21-year-old they said shouldn’t be here. They gave Pop sh*t for it. And he brought more energy than anybody. That’s what we needed.”— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) August 7, 2021
(This is all I can get of the medal ceremony for now, but at least there’s a glance of Keldon getting his medal! If anyone can provide a link to the full ceremony, I’ll get it into the article.)
As for Australia, former Spur Patty Mills (that hurts so much to type) scored a whopping 42 points to lead his country to its first ever Olympic medal in men’s basketball with a 107-93 victory over Luka Doncic and Slovenia. Spur-to-be Jock Landale also contributed 14 points and 2 rebounds on 6-8 shooting.
The loving embraces Pop and Patty shared both after USA’s semifinal win over Australia and at the medal ceremony are both bittersweet for Spurs fans and also a fitting way for the two to part ways as Mills heads off for a bigger role with the title-contending Brooklyn Nets.
Pop will now be headed right back to San Antonio to continue preparing for the next season. Time is flying by fast, as Las Vegas Summer League is about to begin, then training camp in September, and the preseason and regular season will begin at their usual times in October. There’s no rest for the weary, but congrats to Pop, KJ, Patty, Jock, Chip Engelland, Will Hardy, Steve Kerr, and even former Spur and silver medalist Nando de Colo for the victories in Tokyo!