The New American Dream: To Be a Sixth Man and Represent Your Country In the Olympics
For hundreds of thousands of athletes in the United States it is a lifelong dream to represent their country in the Olympics. Some of the country’s elite athletes dominate their sport only to fail to qualify for the Olympics. Jerry Colangelo and Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski has had four years to evaluate the NBA’s elite stars to come up with a roster that was up to par with past “Dream Teams”
If you go back to some of the best teams ever to wear the Red,White, and Blue for USA Basketball you will come up with a who’s who of Hall of Famers. One thing is for certain every player on the 13 Olympic Gold Medal teams were starters for their respective teams.
Would you ever think in your life you would see the day when a non starter would have the opportunity to represent their country on an elite level roster of NBA superstars? James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder has just given hope to thousands of young basketball players and hopefully change the culture of basketball. The conception that players that come off the bench aren’t recognized as elite players in the sport of basketball or any sport for that matter is about to be the thing of the past.
James Harden is good enough to start for about 25 NBA teams but it so happens that he comes off the bench for The Thunder. His team features two other Olympians in NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Because of defensive purposes coach Scott Brooks plays Thabo Sefolosha at the starting shooting guard position and brings Harden one of the NBA’s most efficient players off the bench for his firepower scoring, shooting, and passing.
USA Basketball is always trying to go one step further in revolutionizing their roster as well as the way they select their team. They have no problem saying no as well as cutting the NBA’s elite players as well as now taking players that may not start for their club but bring value to their club to give them the best possible chance to win the gold medal later this summer.
James is a special talent and a special person. His ego or lack there of mirrors the San Antonio Spurs starting shooting guard Manu Ginobili. Like Harden, there aren’t many teams that Ginobili couldn’t start for. Also like Harden he understands that by coming off the bench he gives his team the best possible chance to win an NBA Championship.
A lot could be said about Thunder General Manager Sam Presti’s ability to acquire talent through the draft that he can continue to bring in talent to the point that one of the league’s top shooting guards is coming off the bench for his club. Harden was a very good player coming out of Arizona State in 2009. Presti selected him with the 3rd overall pick that year. The majority of scouts believed that Harden would be a solid player in the NBA, but not many predicted that he would be in the NBA’s elite level.
Harden had his best year yet for the 2012 Western Conference Champions averaging 16.8 points 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. All of this in only 31 minutes of action. His biggest asset is the how efficient that he is at his position. His shooting numbers reflect this as he shot 49% from the field, and 39 from the 3 point line.
This could be without question one of the most bizarre happenings for a selection of a player in USA Basketball History. It’s like the Dream Team in 1992 having Detlef Schrempf on their roster. Schrempf was considered the NBA’s top sixth man back in 1992 and a very good player. The era’s are different not to mention Schrempf wasn’t eligible to be on the USA roster, but it is the same concept of having the NBA’s top 6th man that year on the Olympic Roster. This isn’t like James won a contest or a lottery to get this opportunity. He earned it by being not only a great player, but someone who has an effect on his team’s winning.
USA Basketball isn’t about putting together a collection of All-Star’s together. It’s about finding the best pieces and putting them together to play as one for one common goal and that is to win a gold medal for the United States. This is a great moment for not only USA Basketball history, but sports history as well. This goes to show you that you don’t have to be a team’s number one option to impact winning. Impact winning is more important than winning scoring titles, all-star game selections, or dunk contests.
People of all sports and ages need to understand how special this accomplishment is. Sports aren’t always about being flashy or putting up the best stats. It’s about impacting a team in a team concept no an individual one. James Harden has a chance to represent his country and play on a team of the world’s elite players. First man or sixth man everyone’s ego is checked at the door as USA basketball is about being as one to represent the United States of America.