Tip-Off Timer: Olympic Basketball Wasn't Always Flashy
No one who crawled out of bed in the wee hours to watch the live broadcast of the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal men's basketball game between Spain and the United State will soon forget the action. Between some ridiculous play from LeBron and Wade, a vicious comeback run by the Spaniards and a devastating coffin-slamming by Kobe, it was a simply divine spectacle -- well worth the sleep deprivation.
At the risk of sounding superficial, let me note that Olympic basketball was not always such a show. In fact, in the first gold medal game held for men's basketball back in 1936 in Berlin, the game was downright ugly. Team USA beat Canada ... and got the gold after scoring only 19 points in the championship game.
The final score was 19-8. Yes, 19 points to 8 points. According to Wikipedia, the gold medal game was played outdoors on a dirt court. It rained hard, so actually the gold medal game was played outdoors on a mud court. As such, the teams had trouble dribbling. (Man, a court that could have stopped Allen Iverson!) Anyone who complains about the slow-it-down style of the Spurs should go back in time and watch an Olympic gold medal is awarded in a game where nine points could have won. Reggie Miller could have played Canada 1-on-5, not shot the ball until there were 11 seconds left, and sent the game to overtime.
Basketball at the Olympics eventually moved indoors, the epic 1960 team begat the '72 team, the '84 team, the Dream Team, the Dream Team II, the EPIC FAIL team of '04 and yes, the Redeem Team. But it's hard to disagree that the game had humble beginnings on the world stage. Makes watching Dwyane Wade through an alley-oop while falling out-of-bounds all the more precious.