Hoop stars earn their stripes
JAMIE FOXX did his best to remain incognito but the paratroopers spotted him anyway. A few minutes after the USA men’s basketball team completed their quest to win gold, the actor slipped out a side exit of the vast O2 arena wearing a grey tracksuit with the hood up and dark glasses – the uniform of choice for celebrities trying to blend in.
Within a few minutes, he had a dozen delighted squaddies posing with him. Foxx couldn’t have been more accommodating and even asked the squaddies to pose for a photograph with his daughter. “I can’t believe this,” said one soldier in an accent that was pure Hollyoaks. “Jamie Foxx – in the flesh.”
Foxx was just one of the many showbiz names scattered around the big arena for the USA’s showpiece game against Spain. There was no surprise that the Americans won – the final score was 107 -100 – but the speed and aggression with which the Spanish played for three gripping quarters meant that they could never rest on their laurels until the last minute of the game.
In the end, the USA simply had too much: when they needed scores in the last quarter, their marquee names stepped up. LeBron James, given the slightest passage through the lane for the first time all afternoon, took off and delivered a tomahawk dunk.
Kevin Durant, the elegant power forward hit three after three – the Americans were 7/10 from outside the arc in the first quarter alone. And Kobe Bryant, in his swansong game for the American team, was sublime, demonstrating the combination of silk and steel that has made him the best player in the world since Michael Jordan was at his best.
It wasn’t Bryant’s show stealing reverse jump shots that caught the eye so much as his ferocious defence: all game long, he closed down Rudy Fernandez with a zeal that was predatory. But this was a game Bryant or his colleagues could not have afforded to lose.
Defeat would haven been a permanent stain on their reputations, particularly given that the team was stacked with the brightest names in the NBA.
“Well, that is the first time we had so many great players to carry the team. When the war goes on, that is the time you let it go. I’m on cloud nine. It is such a huge honour. We work so hard to bring the gold medal back to the United States. Its hard work and perseverance. Everybody has a story. Everybody has a journey.”