We’ve gotten two collaborations around 20 years in the making this week: LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, and Nas and Eminem. Even when they all broke into their respective industries, Team USA’s women’s basketball program had already been winning gold medals. The first came in 1984, and they’ve won all but one since.
The last time the women didn’t win the gold medal at the Games was in 1992 (bronze), the year the Dream Team got together on the men’s side and won their first with pros. It means there’s an entire generation of basketball players, including many of the women on this year’s team, who are only familiar with one color. Gold.
Entering Olympic competition, the women were more overwhelmingly-favored over their field than their male counterparts were in theirs, which you could directly attribute to their 25-year dominance at the Games. They were the No. 1 team in the world going into the Olympics, despite an early exhibition loss to Australia, who won despite Liz Cambage’s withdrawal shortly before everyone left for Tokyo. Team USA returned the favor in its quarterfinal bout with the Aussies with a 79-55 win (the team’s 54th-straight Olympic win), leading into a showdown with Serbia.
Serbia entered the Games ranked No. 8 overall, according to FIBA, and went 2-1 in group play, only losing to world No. 3 Spain. In the quarters, they outlasted China 77-70, and that proved to be their lone highlight as the Americans busted their ass in last night’s semifinals.
I mean, c’mon, fam.
If you had any doubt about why every oddsmaker heavily-favored Team USA, that was wiped away rather quickly, wasn’t it? The scores were 25-12 after the first, then 41-23 at halftime. You may have gotten a tad nervous in the third when Serbia cut to within 14 points, but the lead quickly grew to 19 (58-39) heading into the fourth. In the end, Team USA held on for a dominant 79-59 victory. As a team, the Americans shot 48 percent from the floor and made 88 percent of their 16 free-throw attempts. Brittney Griner led the way with 15 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 6-for-11. Chelsea Gray added 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Breanna Stewart had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Team USA’s current all-time Olympic record is now 71-3, and they haven’t lost an Olympic game (that counted) since 1992, which is to say, every gold medal victory from 1996 through 2016 came with a perfect 8-0 record. (Now, it would only be up to 6-0 because of a different Olympic format that began with three groups of four instead of two groups of six prior to the knockout stage). Hopefully, people grasp this dynasty properly, because it actually is a legitimate one.
This is only the 12th Olympics where women’s basketball is featured as part of the Summer Games, and Team USA has a shot at its ninth gold medal. The other three were won by the Soviet Union (twice) and the 1992 Unified Team (or former Soviet Union), respectively. Standing in Team USA’s way of what would be their seventh consecutive gold will be host nation Japan, who earned their first appearance in a gold medal game with an 87-71 win over France this morning.