The USA men’s basketball team claimed the final gold medal of the Rio 2016 Olympics, emphatically putting Serbia to the sword with what was admittedly not their best team, and with LeBron James hinting an international comeback at the Tokyo Games in 2020, who is to say that they won’t capture a fourth straight gold in Japan.
But away from the USA’s men and women who were heavily fancied and delivered a gold medal in Rio, there were some nations who did themselves proud at this year’s Olympic Games and some who, with the talent they had should have done much better than their final standing.
STAR PERFORMERS AT THE RIO 2016 OLYMPICS
Patty Mills led Australia to its best ever Olympic position of fourth with many believing that they should have received the bronze had it not been for what people were calling a ‘phantom’ foul on Spain’s Sergio Rodriguez by Mills in the dying seconds of the game then maybe the Boomers would have secured bronze.
But it wasn’t to be, Australia, prominent Olympic competitors due to their ridiculously easy passage will have to settle for fourth.
It wasn’t just Mills that ran the show for the Aussies, Andrew Bogut, who had surprised all by suiting up despite reportedly being sidelined thanks to an injury sustained in the NBA Finals, had a solid outing throughout the Olympics, activating his role without having to stand out.
NBL star Chris Goulding faired well with a 22-point performance in their group stage win over Venezuela standing out. Veterans Aron Baynes and David Andersen also enjoyed good spells in the two-week tournament.
Serbia are well and truly back amongst the top sides in the world after a second straight finals appearance in a world basketball tournament. Both showings have resulted in heavy defeats to the USA but he latest runners-up finish in Rio proves that their podium position at the 2014 FIBA World Cup was no fluke.
Before the Olympics began, not many people labelled Serbia as the main challengers to the Americans which was reserved for Spain and France but once more, Milos Teodosic, Bogdan Bogdanovic and company proved us wrong.
Away from the Americans, Serbia’s women arguably were the team of the competition, by securing a podium finish in their first ever Olympic appearance.
Their feat was made all the more outstanding given that they lost their opening three encounters and looked as good as out before they began their winning streak, en route to a historic bronze.
Spain completed a fantastic silver medal finish at Rio 2016, solidifying their status as one of Europe’s leading women’s basketball nations. It was their first medal and best finish at an Olympic Games. Alba Torrens led the runners-up in scoring with an average of 16.4 points a game with a courageous game-high 18 points in the finale with the Americans.
Japan warmed up for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with a solid performance in Rio. They even gave the Americans a game in the quarter-finals before wearing themselves out in the third period, eventually having to settle for defeat.
Croatia men’s team and Canada women’s team.
It was a disappointing campaign for France as they bowed out, rather easily to Spain in a match up that had high hopes but was over quicker than a hiccup. They were the supposed nearest challengers to the USA with ESPN even putting them second in their Power Rankings but they were dumped out in the last eight.
It also was not the right way for Tony Parker to end his international career with a disappointing defeat, especially after the French gave the USA a fantastic game in pool play but promises to your team are promises.
After winning the silver medal at Eurobasket 2015, advancing automatically to the Olympics and bagging a group that favoured them to win it, Lithuania failed to live up to their true billing for the second consecutive Olympic basketball tournament.
And, like France, the Baltic giants were tamely disposed of in the last eight by a rampant Australia.
Australia have medalled in five of their eight appearances at the Olympic Games, plus they boasted a dynamic duo in the form of Penny Taylor and Elizabeth Cambage, with the latter arguably the most dominant female player in the basketball tournament, averaging 23.5 points to lead all players. Heck, they even finished a perfect 5-0 in the group stages as they strolled into the quarter-finals to play Serbia, who were making their Olympic debuts.
But Serbia were not here by mistake. They were always going to give the Opals a bumpy ride. Little did we know that they would make Australia crash out as early as the quarter-finals.
Yes, the Lauren Jackson era has ended but they have a talented roster, a much better roster than the one who didn’t even make the semi-finals.
Returning to the Olympic fold for the first time since the 2008 Beijing games and boasting a strong and veteran group of players, Belarus were expected to give a decent accounting of themselves in Rio but a lone victory against the hosts Brazil was all they could muster from their Olympic experience.
Considering how talented the roster is, they were soundly eliminated from the group stages without much of a fuss.
Brazil’s men and women’s side.