Does The USA Suck Or Is The Rest Of The World Better At Basketball?
It’s that time of the year again. When Team USA takes on the world in hoops, everybody is paying attention. But instead of watching to see how bad we pulverize opponents, we’ve got to watch to see if we even win our games. It certainly has changed quite a bit since “The Dream Team” shellackings that were handed out back in 1992.
Sure, this year’s roster is missing superstars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. But a few decades ago, the All NBA 2nd Team could wipe the rest of the world off the map. But this year we’ve already seen Team USA play some pretty craptastic basketball in two games. They barely got it together in the 2nd half to beat Lithuania (Really? Lithuania?) and just squeaked by Spain. It makes you think of the 2002 World Championship team that placed 6th and the 2004 “Nightmare” team that captured the Bronze medal at the Olympics.
What it really makes you wonder is how the rest of the world has gotten so good at playing basketball? It’s no secret foreign players have become a dominant force in the NBA (Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Manu Ginobli, etc.) which could be part of the reason American dominance has been on the decline. But another factor that could be looked at is the fact that we’ve lost our way with the fundamentals of basketball. We can call this “And 1″ culture.
Something happened in the late 90s which changed the way the game was being played. Rather than picking up the fundamentals of passing and shooting, our kids were learning ridiculous crossovers and becoming more about being an athlete rather than a cerebral player. Meanwhile, the rest of the world was tackling the fundamentals of playing defense, shooting the outside jumper, boxing out and actually thinking their way through the game. We became in awe of the spectacle of “And 1″ and our children wanted to become showmen using illegal dribbling techniques while unable to make a layup. When the proverbial sh*t hit the fan in 2002, it wasn’t because the rest of the world was suddenly outplaying us. It was because we were not taking care of the sport we dominated so easily in the early 90s.
Sure, the U.S. had kids that could jump out of the gym or dribble a ball off the top of an opponent’s head, but watch how poorly we shoot the ball. Team USA shot terribly against a super regular Lithuania team that most thought should have been served a handy beatdown just for showing up. If it wasn’t for Kevin Durant‘s sweet shooting touch (and ridiculous grasp of the game), Team USA would have been on the other end of the 86-85 victory over Spain.
Who knows what will come of this year’s Team USA endeavor. Maybe the two spotty games will light a fire under the American’s and give them the edge they need to clobber the competition. But maybe, just maybe, the rest of the world is going to catch Team USA slipping and once again prove the only way to beat the rest of the world in basketball is by pulling out the big guns.
Until then, check out how “And 1″ culture has affected this generation of hoopsters in this classic Boondocks clip.