2004 Olympic Basketball Tournament Men: Athens Greece
Athens will go down as perhaps the most exciting international tournament ever held, and certainly the least predictable. The curtain came down on the Olympic Basketball Tournaments with Argentina triumphing in just its fourth Olympic appearance in the Men's competition.
It was an Olympic Tournament where, against current trends, offense played a big part in making this competition such a spectacle. Men's teams have gone over the 100-point mark four times and have exceeded then 90-point mark fifteen times. The highest-scoring team was Lithuania with an average of 93.8 points per game.
Argentina, won the gold medal featuring the Men's Tournament's most accurate player from the field with Luis SCOLA (65.5%) and from two-point land with Emanuel GINOBILI (70.8%). Despite these outstanding performances were the South Americans and Italy the best example for the triumph of the team effort over individual skill. Italy were not presented with their players in the individual top statistics, but had an incredible team spirit, just like a year before during the Eurobasket.
The US Men's team winning streak came to an abrupt end after losing in their opening match to Puerto Rico. Tim DUNCAN, Allen IVERSON and Co. finished just 5-3, but managed to maintain the American tradition of always bringing a medal home from Olympic Men's Basketball Tournaments. This is only the third time the gold medal has eluded them (after Munich 1972 and Seoul 1988), as they failed to qualify for the Final for only the second time in their Olympic history (Seoul being the other case), but managed not go home empty-handed.
Spain was probably the most unlucky team, since Mario PESQUERA's team won six of its seven games, but only the loss to the United States in the quarterfinals was enough to send them playing for 7th place.
YAO Ming, the Chinese 2.25-m. sensation, scored the most points in a single game, with 39 against New Zealand, but lost the unofficial scoring title to Spain's captain Pau GASOL (22.4 points per game).
Emanuel GINOBILI was the MVP of the Men's competition, scoring among others perhaps the most heartbreaking basket of the Tournament, a fall away jumper at the buzzer that gave Argentina the win in their premiere against defending World Champions Serbia Montenegro. The latter, playing without stars like Predrag STOJAKOVIC, Vlade DIVAC and Zeljko REBRACA ended up as the disappointment of the Tournament. The Balkan outfit lost three games with margins ranging from one to three points, finally edging Angola for 11th place.
Athens was also a place to say good bye for some record Olympians. Shane HEAL (AUS) announced his retirement from the national team after competing at four Olympic Games in the Men's Tournament, a record shared by Angola's Antonio DE CARVALHO and Angelo VICTORIANO. Jose ORTIZ, the captain of Puerto Rico, said goodbye to Basketball in style after a great 25-year career, scoring the last basket of his team's last game against Greece. Only Andrew GAZE (AUS) and Oscar Schmidt (BRA) have appeared in more Olympic Basketball Tournaments, with a record five.
Oh yes, it was an incredible competition, featuring big upsets and spectacular plays on the court and it certainly will stay in the memory of the lucky one's who were able to witness it live. But international basketball will travel on, and we look forward for exciting Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing.
2000 Olympic Basketball Tournament Men: Sydney, Australia
Gold: United States of America
With a slightly less representative American team than on previous occasions, this time, no one attributed it with the qualifier "Dream Team". It very nearly lost its place in the Final when, in the Semi-Finals, it found itself one point down against the Lithuanians with just 43 seconds to go to the end of the game. It took a tip in from Antonio McDyess and a free throw from Jason Kidd to save the day (85-83).
One of the major surprises of this tournament was France qualifying for the Final, something which the French had not managed to do since the Olympic Games in London in 1948.
However, France had got off to a somewhat difficult and chaotic start in the tournament being defeated by Lithuania, Italy and the United States (94-106) in its preliminary group. Fortunately, it pulled itself together in the Quarter-Finals against Canada (68-63) and in the Semi-Finals against Australia (76-52).
In the Final, a miracle was practically in the making: in the closing minutes of the game, the French were just four points behind their opponents before finally having to admit defeat (75-85), however not without having first won the Americans' respect.
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