By Erik Jacobsen
It wasn't easy, but the United States held off a serious challenge from Spain to capture the gold medal moments ago. Although it's great to see the U.S. win the big prize, this game only reinforces the fact that America's dominance in the sport isn't what it used to be.
Unlike some recent international competitions, there was no doubt that the Redeem Team was the best collection of players the U.S. had to offer. However, a deep and talented Spanish team was able pester the Americans and on several occasions was only a possession or two away from taking the lead and changing the entire complexion of the game.
The reality is that without Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, the U.S. probably loses this game. Gone are the days when the Americans have the three or four best players on the floor. The very best the U.S. has to offer is now only a player or two better than the next best team, and gold medals won't be forgone conclusions for the U.S. in future Olympics as long as players like Spain's Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro are on the floor.
Bryant certainly rose to the occasion late in the game, but his play was rightfully called into question by TV analyst Doug Collins on several occasions as Bryant took foolish shots and played suspect defense at times. Bryant's amazing talent made up for these shortcomings, but I'd have much rather seen the ball go through James and Dwayne Wade on every possession as those two consistently showed they have the poise and floor smarts to make wise decisions in crunch time.
While I'm analyzing the play of American players, I'll also give some props to former Illinois star Deron Williams, who should have a bright Olympic future after showing he can step up in key moments during his brief time on the floor during the second half against Spain.
Now it's time for goose bumps as the medal ceremony is about to begin.