The dream of Beijing 2008: when Pau Gasol's Spain challenged the great American colossus

On August 24 and in Beijing, what for many is the best national team basketball match was played: the Olympic final between Spain and the USA.

1.- The Olympic Games of Spanish basketball Answer 444 4442.- The 12 of the great Spain: an unrepeatable team3.- The new United States, the empire strikes back4.- The twelve from the USA: to the right of the Dream Team Response

5.- Beijing and the immortal legacy of Kobe Bryant6.- The final: memories of Wukesong

Twelve years have passed and the temptation is still to rub your eyes at the memory. It was epic, quixotic; It was so unreal that it was about to happen. It was on August 24, 2008, at the Wukesong Indoor Stadium and in the best possible scenario, the final of the Olympic Games.

In what in peninsular time was an unforgettable morning, a dazzling United States, with a dream team, took gold (118-107) against a Spain unleashed, current and proud world champion and directed by Aíto García Reneses. It was a Team USA of absolute luxury, the closest thing until then to the Dream Team of Barcelona 92. The Redeem Team (the team of redemption) set in motion to erase the sacrileges of almost a decade of disaster; the largest, Athens 2004. A selection full of legends and directed by another, Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K. That four years later he suffered again against Spain in another tremendous game, the London 2012 final; and that he also saw how the National Team, his great rival for almost a decade, put it hard in the semifinals of Brazil 2016. But nothing, in the imagination of the Spanish fan, like that final of 2008, a collision that for many remained as the best match ever played in FIBA competitions. And, of course, the closest time Spain had in the Olympic tournaments to the American giant, who did not breathe until the last moments and after a dazzling appearance by Kobe Bryant. A legend to close a legend match.

Spain finished the Olympic tournament with a 6-2 total, their two defeats against the USA (in the first phase without discussion: 119-82). He scored 86 points on average and only conceded 79. The Americans did not lose (8-0) and left an average score of 106.2 and 78.4 points against per game. The Spanish team, with Aíto as a bridge to the Scariolo era, kept ten World Champions from Saitama 2006 and eight players who were already or would go to the NBA. It was the heyday of the Golden Juniors generation, the group led by Juan Carlos Navarro and Pau Gasol that ruled European basketball and challenged the American NBA stars as few have dared. A mythical Spain, one of the great teams in history, before a dazzling Team USA (with eleven all stars and two NBA MVPs), with pending accounts and a more twisted tusk (pure necessity) than the legendary Barcelona team 92.

There was an extraordinary level of play, arbitration controversy, defenses to the limit, extreme equality (Spain was two points into the last quarter) and a volume of historical talent unleashed in both teams: Navarro's bombs, Rudy's triples, baskets in the Pau Gasol zone, Dwyane Wade flights, LeBron penetrations, decisive daggers from Kobe Bryant, impossible passes from Chris Paul ... it was a legendary game, a gold that the United States valued like never after eight years of nightmare ... and suffering the unspeakable before a rebellious and colossal Spain: giant. One that won silver but was gold in what, for many, was the best match in the history of national team basketball.

The Spanish Basketball Olympic Games

The Spanish Basketball Games, wrote our special envoy Juan Jiménez at the Olympic premiere of the National Team in Wukesong in Beijing. Spain landed in China on August 5 after a marathon trip of more than 24 hours. It was five days before his Olympic debut against Greece and the atmosphere showed that these could be his Games. The reasons were several: at 28 years old, the generation of the Golden Juniors (Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Raúl López, Felipe Reyes, Berni Rodríguez ...) was in full maturity and the external pieces had fitted together perfectly. in a project that already knew what it was like to climb to the top of an intercontinental podium. The veteran Carlos Jiménez, at 32 years old, gave some calm (and sanity) to a team that boasted, above all, of youth and talent.

A team capable of anything. Aíto's pulse did not tremble when he gave the alternative in Joventut to a very young Ricky Rubio (he was not yet 15 years old when he played his first Endesa League game with La Penya) and neither did he tremble when it came to turning him into the third earliest premiere in the history of the Spanish National Team (only Carlos Sevillano and Juan Antonio Corbalán debuted before him). And, the truth is, it was not a typical premiere for a 17-year-old boy because, with Calderón injured in the quarterfinals against Croatia and Raúl López with a much more secondary role, Ricky had to give the call in the semifinals against Lithuania and the grand final against the United States. A precocious talent that astonished in a Wukesong, in which eleven years later he would become world champion for the first time. And with all the honors, as the MVP of the championship.

But a decade before that happened, he achieved another recognition there, that of becoming the youngest to hang a medal in the history of Olympic basketball ahead of Soviet Vladimir Tkachenko. “I don't look at the DNI”, he repeated over and over again Once the point guard, who grew at full speed in those Games. But in that dream team there were also two very young Rudy Fernández and Marc Gasol, each just turned 23 years old. The two had also decided to go to the NBA after those Games because it seemed that both had been small Spain. Marc crossed the pond as the undisputed MVP of the Endesa League after eleven days of the regular phase as the best and only Rudy could argue with the Gasol midfielder his hegemony in Spanish basketball that year. But we said that the reasons were various because in Beijing, not only did the most talented team in the history of Spanish basketball coincide, but it also arrived as a brand-new world champion.

Saitama 2006 was the consecration for a generation that rose to the top of the podium in Japan, but did so with a thorn in the side. Athens 2004 was a real blow to a team that said goodbye to the Games with a seventh place because Stephon Marbury, the wayward point guard who years later would confess that he lived the worst 38 days of his life at that Olympic event, decided to make one of the best matches of his career. Absolute impotence for a team that only lost one game in the entire championship: the quarterfinals and against an USA that set out to change from that tremendous setback, for its illustrious sports record and for its image. A bitter bronze for a team used to believing itself the navel of the world. But before that, and as the only brilliant moment of his horrible championship, he knocked Spain down in those damn rooms in Greece. That stumble was remembered very well by more than half of the Spanish team: Gasol, Navarro, Garbajosa, Calderón, Reyes, Jiménez and Rudy were that fateful afternoon in the nightmare of Athens, on a day when Spain was aiming for gold and leaving empty handed.

But the one in Athens was not the only disappointment that Gasol, Navarro had experienced ... A year earlier it had been the Eurobasket in Spain, a championship in which the whole country had been very excited because it was their great opportunity to see and enjoy with the world champion. Granada, Madrid ... and a golden dream. Spain was organizing a great event again ten years after the Barcelona European Championship, which was disastrous, and the Saitama gold forced them to climb to the top. Yes or yes, there was no other option.

But the nationalized (another American point guard) JR Holden extinguished the dream of the National Team with a basket with two seconds left that gave Russia the title. Spain, once again, was resisting a European with whom two years later he would begin an idyll that has given him three golds in less than ten years (2009, 2011 and 2015). Madrid's disappointment led to Pepu Hernández leaving through the back door (there was a mess between the coach and the FEB, because he accused the Federation of having thought more about making money than in the team and in the championship) and the arrival against the clock by Aíto García Reneses. And we say against the clock because Aíto could have been known by the nickname of El Breve. On June 3, the FEB announced the dismissal of Pepu as Spanish coach. It was an open secret, as was the fact that José Luis Sáez, then federative president, had already chosen his replacement. The problem is that Aíto, who had said goodbye to Joventut a few weeks before, had his signing approved by Unicaja, something that he denied the very day of his presentation. It was a real mess because the ACB regulations prohibit a coach from combining the positions of coach and coach of any country. Something that also caused, later, that Scariolo left office after the London Games, because he had a monkey to coach a team all year long.

But once the law is made, the trap is made. As nothing had been signed yet, Aíto decided to live his Olympic dream in China and not formally commit to Unicaja until after Beijing 2008. So on June 6, 2008, three days after Pepu's departure, the Federation announced that Aíto would be the coach in the Games and two days after the final against the United States, he was leaving his post. In total, he spent 81 days in office, enough time to get the second Olympic silver in history after Los Angeles 84. Aíto did not make many changes with respect to the team that had hung the gold in Saitama and the silver in the Eurobasket from Spain a year earlier (both were the same). The revolution, yes, came at the point guard where it included two players that he knew well: Ricky Rubio and Raúl López. Sergio Rodríguez, who at that time was fighting to get more minutes in Portland, and a golden junior like Carlos Cabezas were the victims.

Spain had a more or less comfortable Olympic preparation. There were not many shocks, except for a scare that Navarro gave to twisting his ankle against Hungary and the overloads and discomfort of any preparation. The Garbajosa soap opera from the previous year soon ended with the Madrid's departure from the Raptors and his signing for Khimki, and Gasol arrived with little rest (he had played the sixth game of the NBA Finals on June 17), but It was fine. In addition, the National Team arrived in Beijing without notches on the way. Everything was more or less comfortable triumphs, except a friendly against Argentina in Madrid (90-88). The rematch of the world semifinals returned to smile at the National Team, which traveled to the Games undefeated and with all possible ambition. With the United States more earthly, at least in appearance because of the previous setbacks, Spain dreamed of gold and did not hide. "The objective is that," Calderón confessed a few days before the start of the tournament.

After a placid debut against Greece, the National Team continued with its roadmap (China, Germany ...) and a date marked on the agenda: August 16. That would be the day they would face the USA, a team made to win gold ("If we don't make it, I'll have to leave the country," joked Kobe Bryant at the time) and that had overwhelmed their rivals by a difference. average of 28.3 points in his first three games. That duel before the fearsome new version of the Americans was going to measure, it was thought, the real options of the National Team.

Spain was the second choice for bookmakers and it seemed that the US wanted to show that the equation was much simpler than they believed, that there was only one candidate for gold and that was him. Beating (82-119, +37 for Krzyzewski's), but that could be useful as a reminder before the historic final in Beijing. The Selection made us believe that day that anything was possible and repeated, four years later, the same arguments in London. Neither time could it be. And although this Spain has been world champion on two occasions, it still has pending accounts with the United States, its executioner in the last four Olympic Games (fourth in 2004, semifinals in 2016 and the final in 2008 and 2012) and that gave it two silver that, yes, taste a little like gold.

The 12 of the great Spain: An unrepeatable team The new United States, the empire strikes back

Surely the Redeem Team, the 2008 United States National Team, will never have the place in the basketball Olympus to which the Dream Team of the Barcelona Games. Neither did the London 2012 team, a surely improved version of the (fearsome) four years earlier because Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul followed and Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook arrived. But one thing is certain: in 2008, Team USA faced a real challenge, faced vertigo, fulfilled a mission that, as much as it seemed a priori superior to all its rivals, needed to be reflected on the track after an eclipse of eight years in the big tournaments. Too much for American pride, too much for basketball fathers.

1992 was the year of the dream, the divine team (Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing…) that descended among the mortals to transform and globalize basketball forever. The beginning of an era and the materialization of a dream enlightened in 1989 by Boris Stankovic from FIBA and David Stern from the NBA offices: the presence of American professionals at the Olympic Games, the prophets of conquest, basketball as a game global, the NBA as an international product. Stankovic and Stern, both now deceased, spoke of a gap "impossible to tolerate." They had looked at the possibilities that American stars opened up, impacting a world where basketball did not stop growing. The result was a Dream Team in which the least, in fact, was sports: 8-0 in Barcelona with an average difference in victories of 43.8 points and none by less than 32, so the team fell down. Petrovic, Kukoc and Radja's Croatia.

In 1992, rivals from the United States wanted, or ended up wanting in the middle of the second quarter, to be handsome in the photo, to feel part of history, to wear a souvenir shirt. In 2008, they wanted to win, to knock down a bear that was starting to get used to falling, like boxers after going to the mat for the first time. The defeats of previous years and the proliferation of players from all over the world in the NBA, no one thought about the photo or the shirt, they put the United States on the target: the more stars, the more succulent the piece. Against that, the Redeem Team, the team of redemption, rose, returned the mystique and the category to the United States team and laid the foundation for eleven years of success, until the defeat in the quarterfinals of the 2019 World Cup against France. It was, that last team from China, a Team USA in version C ... or D.

It is impossible to put into context the circumstances of the 2008 gold without understanding what had happened since 1992. Of the versions II and III of the Dream Team (the third one won by 31.8 points of difference all its matches of Atlanta 96 with five members from the Barcelona team and reinforcements such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal), to the dark years. In 1998, the lockout forced what was to be a great team for the World Cup in Athens (Grant Hill, Tim Duncan, Tim Hardaway, Allan Houston, Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett ...) to become a group of meritorious men taken from universities , minor leagues and European competitions. The Dirty Dozen, named for their dedication and pack spirit, scored a creditable bronze with Brad Miller (he hadn't been drafted, he ended up being an all-star twice) alongside a classic from this side of the Atlantic like Trajan Langdon.

Theoretically just a parenthesis caused by the lockout in the NBA, this World Cup was the harbinger of bad times, postponed in Sydney 2000 by the hair. In the group stage, Lithuania was the first rival to fall within ten points of a USA made from the NBA (85-76). In the semifinals a duel was repeated, and Jasikevicius had a shot to shake the basketball planet (85-83 final). Later, Team USA won gold against France in a Games remembered, basically, for Vince Carter's dunk over the 218 centimeters of Frederic Weis. But, along the way, he had taught the jugular: against increasingly higher level rivals and with more player traffic between continents, the United States seemed, no one would have imagined it just a few years earlier, vulnerable.

From Sydney to Beijing, the proud American basketball lived a nightmare. At the 2002 World Cup in Indianapolis (Indiana: the state where basketball is more than just a sport), a listless and grieving America finished sixth. He lost three games, the first with professionals, against Argentina (the first), Spain and Yugoslavia already in the quarterfinals. Injuries had sidelined players like Jason Kidd and Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce beat out coach George Karl. In the teams that defeated a dwindling giant, there were players who were already blurring, or were going to blur the boundaries between the NBA and the world in the following years: Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic ... 444 444

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal had refused to represent their national team on American soil. A minor drama for a country that measures international success with a single scale, the Olympic. That is why the trance of Athens 2004 hurt horrors, where only three of the twelve who had achieved the classification in the Tournament of the Americas in 2003 (Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and Richard Jefferson) attended. A very strict coach like Larry Brown collided (arguments, punishments for indiscipline, fines for tardiness ...) with a decadent team, haughty in the worst sense of the word, too young to absorb the missteps and criticism: Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James (who they would call LeBronze after the tournament) was 20 years old, Dwyane Wade 22. The United States began with a resounding defeat, the worst in their history in major tournaments, against Puerto Rico (92-73). After beating Greece and Australia by a suffered +16 total, they lost to Lithuania (94-90). And they got fourth in the group after beating poor Angola (89-53). That team, dubbed the Nightmare Team (the nightmare, the reverse of Barcelona 92 twelve years later), faced a Spain that seemed a favorite in the quarterfinals (102-94) thanks to an illuminated night of the wayward Stephon Marbury (31 points). But they fell in the semifinals against Argentina and later saved the bronze against Lithuania (104-96) .

American basketball came out of Athens in ruins. For the defeats, for finishing with bronze (the first time with NBA players, the third in history without counting the boycott of 1980) and for the almost badass image of a team that put its head in the ground when they came bad given, whose failures were cheered by the stands and whose immature stars soon demonstrated that they wanted to return to their comfort zone in NBA basketball.

The American Federation, once it was evident that the bottom had been reached, bet on Jerry Colangelo, who is now 80 years old, then 64 years old and had almost half a century of an experience that had taken him from the basketball courts to the benches and offices. Colangelo negotiated with Stern, asked for total freedom of movement and clarified: they were the vaunted problems to adapt to the rules of international basketball and to attack the defenses in the zone of the FIBA teams, yes; But it was, above all, an attitude that “had left much to be desired”: “Seeing the reactions of the public in the stands towards our team, I saw that we could no longer fall any lower” .

The plan Colangelo, a manager who quickly appropriated the term Redeem (redemption), was to leave behind improvisation and arrogance. Putting away the harmful practice of bringing together twelve NBA players, avoiding the increasingly common resignations of the big stars, and starting almost a vacation trip from which no one seemed to come back happy. Against chauvinism, program, program and program. The stars would have to commit to three-year cycles (a Games and a World Cup), meet for work in the summer ... and meet privately with Colangelo to explain why they wanted to represent their country. There would be no great economic gains or politicking with the minutes or guaranteed titles. There would be no egos. The team would be unofficially nicknamed Redeem Team and its official motto would be "United We Rise" (together we rise). They began to take care of the forms, manners, dealing with the press and fans, clothing. Every detail. Summer camps were organized in Las Vegas and more than 70 training sessions were held before Beijing 2008 for just 15 (with six friendlies) that preceded the Athens debacle. And he took on Mike Krzyzewski, Coach K, a bench institution, Duke's coach since 1980 and a Hall of Fame member since 2001. Another College classic, Jim Boeheim, Nate McMillan and Mike, started working for him. D'Antoni.

The United States took over the ground it had given way and began to analyze and draw on the long-term projects of Argentina (Olympic champion in 2004) and Spain, which had won the 2006 World Cup, the first experiment of the new Team USA. It ended badly, with another bronze, but Colangelo already realized that it was something else: “I saw the public cheer on our players again. And, all things considered, that defeat served to martyr our players by reminding them that basketball was much better all over the world and that the dangers were real. " That defeat, in the semifinals against Greece's high pick and roll, was another blemish on the record but one that did not bother Colangelo too much ("there were a few minutes in the last quarter in which they put everything and we missed even the free throws" ), who had his sights set on the grand prize, the Beijing Games.

Of the more than 30 top-tier NBA players he spoke to privately, Colangelo (account) received only two denials: Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. LeBron jumped on the bandwagon in the middle of the conversation, his generation mates (Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh) followed in a cascade and the new governing cabinet knew that his triumph was full when Kobe Bryant, who until then had ignored all the calls of the selection, gave the yes. Kobe was the definitive legitimation, the signature to a complete cleaning and renovation work of a structure that had been on the verge of collapsing. Jim Tooley, Executive Director of Team USA, was happy to say that "playing for the US was back in fashion." The option of taking a good bite out of the Chinese market, with the Olympic event in Beijing, also played in favor of a team that finally came with a formidable squad, more experienced than that of Athens (26.1 years on average), of the that repeated (Wade, LeBron, Carmelo, Boozer) four members (Jason Kidd had been in Sydney 2000); much more prepared and mentalized and with a new environment, much healthier, which was captured in a special ESPN program during the preparation phase: Road To Redemption. The road to redemption.

Jason Kidd and Kobe, who served as captain, were the veteran weight of a team driven by the next generation of stars: LeBron, Wade and Bosh would make plans to play together that would fulfill in 2010 (they won two titles reunited in Miami Heat), Dwight Howard and Chris Paul were taking off into the sky and there were specialists in shooting (Michael Redd), defense (Ty Prince) and masonry (Carlos Boozer). It was hands down the best Team USA since the Dream Team and a team again with the correct speech and body language. Colangelo could breathe easy ... or not: the gold was missing.

The United States played with the block that had swept the Tournament of the Americas in 2007. In the previous phase in Beijing, they won all five games by an average of 32.3 points, including a devastating 119-82 against Spain, which would later be a much tougher rival in the fight for gold. In the quarters (116-85) and semifinals (101-81) there was no mercy for Australia and an Argentina in which Ginobili had a minced ankle. The final against Spain, a proud world champion, rose like a monument to basketball. This time, the trouble to win was not a sign of weakness but the definitive legitimation in the victory for the new Team USA, one with eleven all stars and in which the stars left behind excuses to get out of the way (in Athens: insecurity, injuries, family needs…); the team that brought the best team in history out of a horrifying period of defeat and bad manners: the team of redemption.

The Twelve of the USA: to the right of the Dream Team Beijing and the immortal legacy of Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant is 8 and 24, his two numbers retired in Los Angeles Lakers. And it's purple and purple. It will always be. But it's also Team USA's 10th. And it's blue, red, and white. The colors of your country. A late romance: He came to the NBA but didn't play for his national team until eleven years later. In 2000 he prioritized his wedding, in 2004 his legal problems over the sexual assault case in Colorado. Twice he missed the FIBA summer due to knee injuries… and in 2007 he made his debut, at the Tournament of the Americas. He added that gold, that of Beijing 2008 and that of London 2012. And he did not lose any official match (26-0) with the United States.

Kobe averaged 15.3 points in 2007, 15 in 2008 and 12.1 in 2012, where he played at 33 before announcing his goodbye to the national team. But his big moment with the United States was the last quarter of the final in Beijing, when he put the rubric to redemption, the sweaty gold against Spain. Kobe had 20 points and 6 assists. But 13 of those points came in the fourth quarter, when he put on his shoulders a team that only won by two (91-89) with eight minutes remaining. From there he added a basket forcing in the zone (93-89), two assists for a triple by Deron Williams and a mate from Howard (98-89), a triple from the left corner (101-92) in the absence of six minutes ... and, after a decisive defensive action against Pau Gasol, his teammate in the Lakers, he hit an iconic 3 + 1 taking a free kick on Rudy Fernández. He put his team 108-99 and made the gesture of silence with the index finger on his mouth. He still scored a bomb (with 111-105) and a free throw when the gold was already a fact. Clutch Kobe, the alpha male at the top of the sport: an Olympic final.

Kobe was, to a large extent, the banner of redemption. Jerry Colangelo felt that his work plan for three years was working when Kobe said yes as did the stars of the next generation (LeBron, Wade, Carmelo, Paul…). Players for whom Kobe was (even more so for those who joined him in 2012: Durant, Harden, Westbrook, Davis ...) his particular Michael Jordan. And Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged years later that he suffered a lot in the match against Spain and that he did not want to think about what would have happened to his team without Kobe: “In London 2012 he was also an integral part of the team, a key player. But if we had lost in Beijing, I would not have been able to continue as coach. That's clear to me. We only won by two with nine minutes to go, there was a lot of pressure ... but the Mamba appeared. He was the dominant male in a team with LeBron, Carmelo and everyone else… he was key for his generation to join the next, and then in London for the integration of Durant, Westbrook… the newcomers. Three generations of players mixed perfectly and Kobe was exemplary in that process, he led the way for everyone. He's smart, he understands basketball perfectly ... I adore him. ”

Kobe bought the message of redemption, a new attitude and a new spirit of work as keys to recovering the medals… and prestige. Team USA went from sending desperate invites to elusive stars to racking up talent in tough practice sessions in Las Vegas. Before the 2007 Tournament of the Americas and his official debut, Kobe marked his territory in a game (on July 22) among the team members. A party ... but with full stands and live television. It was a white jerseys against blue jerseys but it was, above all, a LeBron team against Kobe team. And this, the veteran, closed the game with 7 points in the last 105 seconds to ensure the victory. And in total 26, with the winning basket with six seconds left, just before a final LeBron failure.

In Beijing, Kobe played after losing to the Celtics in the NBA Finals, still in search of his first post-Shaquille O'neal ring (with which he won three between 2000 and 2002). His teammates from Team USA, Sue Bird said, could not believe it when they saw him, for example, cut out of a newspaper a photo of Paul Pierce celebrating the title and put it in his wallet. Permanent motivation. During the Games, he always sent war messages to Pau Gasol, with whom he had a pending mission. Together they were champions in 2009 and 2010, avenging in that last franchise title (for now) the loss two years earlier against the Celtics.

The last great Kobe, encapsulated in the cycle of two Games (2008 and 2012) added two golds to a legendary résumé and left his mark as the leader of a generation, an unforgettable winner who left us in a fatal accident on January 26. His legacy will always be gigantic… and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Final has a very special place in it.

The final: memories of Wukesong

When I arrived at Wukesong that morning of August 24, 2008, Lithuania and Argentina were playing for the bronze medal. Let's say he had little sleep. Those were proto-internet times. There was a lot to work on (some days we would start writing after dinner), but we had to take advantage of the night in Beijing, we were leaving in a couple of days, we already had two weeks of Games and a whole month of touring San Fernando, Cáceres, Ourense, Castellón, Zaragoza, Madrid, Shanghai ...

But I woke up fast, like the millions of homes in Spain that got up (or did not go to bed) at 8:30 am that Sunday. That game has been seen dozens of times and everything has been written about that game. It remains, then, to write what could feel who was there. You know, that supposed moment in which one feels so wonderful to be seeing something very big in situ.

But yeah, that was great. Of all the flashes preserved from that game, the most shocking was that of Rudy going straight to Dwight Howard to smash him in the face. "Where is this nut going?" Was the least I thought when he threw himself against the, then, Magic tower. Howard, by the way, had to be seen from half a meter to figure out what kind of bulk he was. That iconic mate lifted Spanish journalists from their desks, made Argentines knock tables. The feeling of disbelief that noon in Wukesong was widespread.

Rudy's mate sums up how the Spanish basketball team felt that afternoon in China. And he was not afraid of anything. Although he did not have Calderón, surely in the best years of his career (Aíto hid his loss although, let's face it, he was happier with Ricky on the track), he felt with incredible freedom to do whatever he wanted. He never played with less complexes. I would say that, at times, he hardly even looked at the scoreboard. The United States, with Kobe, Wade, Carmelo and Lebron, was a bloodletting of points. But Spain decided to play. They were years of physical exuberance, scorer and feeling between the players. Navarro, Ricky, Garbajosa, Rudy. As it always was, it was a team much less dependent on Pau Gasol than in 2012, for example. Much more dynamic. And younger. Wildly cool. Spain was losing 44-58 and, at the rate that the United States was going, I thought I could easily beat them by 30 even if Spain played a great game. But it was not.

We went out to rest to take the toxic air of Beijing and there was a meeting around Fernando Romay, who with that confidence that he transmits when he says things seriously, because you think he is saying them as a joke, proclaimed: "We won." My calculation, I told him, is that, "taking into account that Spain loses 69-61 at halftime and I have not seen the National Team put so much in my life, it would be good news to finish twenty down." It should be remembered that Spain had been devastated (119-82) in the first phase in a match that generated a crisis that would deserve another article. Carlos Jiménez, captain of that team, played a key role in avoiding the fracture of a group that threatened with the division and that did not feel comfortable around Aíto. You know, long concentrations and a long championship in China are not easy to manage. And even less with players who had given way to superstars. However, Spain, as in so many other competitions, knew how to get together on time, smooth things over and be a team. His semi-final against Lithuania, with Gasol in alien mode, had already been memorable.

I saw America suffer. It was the Reedem Team, a team that had concentrated in Las Vegas in 2007 simply to remind themselves that 2004 in Athens, and 2006 in Saitama, was not going to happen again. That a year later he met with a mission, to redeem his name and win back the gold, and that he could not fail. And that had swept during the tournament. They were scary and they played superlative basketball, but they were threatened. And so much that they were. Rudy, a player that Spanish basketball will put in his place (it should be very tall) at the time, was there for everything. For example, to get a crazy triple: 91-89. For the first time, we had to stop writing those canned chronicles that we all prepare when we imagine the outcome. Whatever happened, you had to go back to the blank screen. The history of that party should already be rewritten.

It was wonderful because for a few minutes the possibility of winning was chewed and it always seemed to me that, despite the score, Spain was closer to winning that day than in London.We knew it was all over when Kobe Bryant, what class, scored a three plus one with 104-99 which, moreover, was Rudy's fifth foul. Haughty, as he has always been, impotence consumed him. His reaction, out of tune, like some I saw on the Spanish bench, seemed somewhat excessive. But it is also true that the United States was scared to death, it also protested its own thing from its bench with its usual arrogance and could not lose in any way. And that Spain felt that this was its day.

If there is to lose, I suppose, it must be so. Of course, it can always be thought that Spain lacked that centimeter to cross the line that delimits the glory of eternity.

The final was over for Spain, but not for me. Relaño, then our director, decided to play with the schedule. And, since there were six hours less in China, he decided to ask Gasol for an interview. "Pau is no longer here," I said from the Wukseong to the people of Madrid. "Well find it," they replied. Fortunately, during the Games he had dined a couple of times at Mare, a restaurant run by a Spaniard in a fashionable neighborhood of Beijing where José Luis Sáez, then president of the FEB, had set up a sort of Casa de España B to compete with the official. Let's say that to touch the tickles of Alejandro Blanco, president of the COE.

So, having confirmed that the National Team was there and with the computer on my lap, I got into a taxi with Jorge Muñoa, a journalist for Efe. I have never understood how the taxi driver understood our instructions but the fact is that, half an hour later, we were at the Mare. The Selection was having dinner in a booth and the closing of the newspaper was approaching. Now it was necessary to know if Gasol, who already in those days took care of himself to the extreme, had come to dinner. Someone warned Pau of our presence there with the photographer Jesús Rubio, who had joined I don't know exactly how together with Tomás Guasch. And Gasol, in one of those details that later you are obliged to thank forever (he had already had some more), he attended us in an interview with a superlative photo that later remained in two columns ...

We are not done. Of that final, there has always been talk of arbitration permissiveness with the steps of the Americans. Those images of Navarro being ironic on the court with the peculiar first step of the NBA ... That morning we protested a lot. Also journalists, you have to admit. We speak less, however, of a certain permissiveness with Spanish players. As has already been prescribed, we will allow ourselves the luxury of stealing an off the record from Carlos Jiménez, who on that unforgettable night at the Mare, where it is not that a defeat was celebrated but a way of doing basketball that had impressed the world, released: " They have made steps, I have given Lebron more hosts than in my entire life. " Carlos Jiménez, by the way, had announced to his teammates that day in the final group that he was leaving the National Team. He was a great captain. By the way, we went back to the Wukesong. It was less than a year ago. There was a pending account there that was settled: we were world champions.

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