There is a show on ESPN called "Streetball," where various streetballers with names like "The Professor," "Hot Sauce," "Mr. Dribblesworth," and "Sir Dunks-A-Lot" travel the country playing basketball and doing crazy dribble moves until the crowd goes wild. It is an enjoyable show, and like any reality television show, the viewer is asked to ignore certain, very obvious aspects of each episode. For example, the streetballers don't necessarily play basketball by the "normal rules," in that they often carry the ball, walk, use props, sit in the stands when they're supposed to be playing defense, and don't tuck their shirts in. They are like the Harlem Globetrotters if the Harlem Globetrottters actually played in Harlem, and not Madison Square Garden. The only problem with this is that the line between "Streetball" and the NBA has become very thin, and many professional players have crossed that line, which is bad because that line signifies out-of-bounds, which is also against the rules to cross.
With the embarrassing showing of our NBA players at this year's Olympics, this issue deserves to be examined. Not that I, personally, am embarrassed by our basketball team's poor play. I usually only get embarrassed when I fall down the stairs, or when my fly is open while I'm waiting in line to order deli meat. But regardless, there has been much talk about how we play basketball here in America, and why we can't beat European countries, like Puerto Rico, who were introduced to the sport of basketball only three weeks ago. Plus, I just got word that Puerto Rico isn't even a European country, which makes THAT loss even worse.
It's become quite apparent that the aspect of teamwork (as in, passing the ball to other people) has been lost in today's version of pro basketball, with its streetball mentality. Basically, in "Streetball" whoever gets the rebound takes the next shot, whoever has the ball dribbles endlessly, nobody moves on offense, and defense, well, forget about it. This philosophy has apparently transferred directly to the 2004 version of the Dream Team. The weird thing is that, we - the United States of America - are only 12 years removed from watching the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled (and Christian Laettner) work like a well-oiled, basketball machine on its way to winning gold in Barcelona. With the original Dream Team, it wasn't about egos, or points, or even "Hot Sauce," it was simply about winning.
Can you imagine the original Dream Team shooting 3 for 24 from three-point range during the Olympic Games, against Puerto Rico, a team that doesn't even have one guy that, height-wise, comes up to Tim Duncan's nipples? If anything, Michael Jordan himself wouldn't let that happen, and would sooner punch one of his teammates in the face during the game than allow that guy to miss even three shots in a row. And missing three shots in a row is something not one member of the original Dream Team, sans Christian Laettner, would ever do anyway.
I'm so sick and tired about hearing how various countries have caught up to the U.S. in basketball. Other countries have not improved, we've simply REGRESSED as a basketball playing nation. Am I to believe that Italy is now better than America at basketball? Really? I don't think so. In fact the only reason that Italy beat the U.S. in a preliminary match last week is because the Italians have not been adversely influenced by "Streetball," because there are no TVs in Italy. Or streets. And nobody in Italy, to my knowledge, calls himself "Sir-Dunks-A-Lot."
People are making so many excuses for our poor Olympic play, like "We're not used to the zone defense!" and "Our best players aren't even there!" and "They use square basketballs in Greece!" But the simple reality of the matter is that American basketball is getting a wake up call in Athens, and that wake up call is America's mother, getting America out of bed because it's time for school. The school of fundamentals, that is. And nobody can watch "Streetball," or have dessert, until they do their homework.
And tuck your shirt in.