By: Jeffrey Newholm After a shocking bronze medal performance in the 2004 Athens games, there was a crisis of confidence for USA Basketball. Anything other than gold has always been considered unacceptable for a nation obsessed with being #1. Enter the 2008 “Redeem Team”. Behind coach K, Kobe, and Lebron, the team stormed through the tournament and reclaimed what rightfully belonged to the states. But I think the 2016 team is more deserving of this moniker. The 2008 team was the custodian cleaning up someone else’s mess. This year’s team had its own issues, but redeemed itself by playing tough, fundamentally sound ball through its three playoff games. As a result, the US claimed a third straight gold medal. The official (Merriam-Webster) definition of redeem is “to make (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) better or more acceptable”. And frankly the last two prelim games were bad. Really bad. The team had to be saved by the bell from pretty weak French and Serb teams. But the gold medal game yesterday wasn’t just “more acceptable”. It was a thorough domination. It proved to be such a laugher that the Americans could fool around with ill-advised threes and alley-oops in the fourth quarter with no fear of losing even half the lead. The final was 96-66, but it wasn’t even that close. Kevin Durant led with another 30 point shooting clinic, and there was no repeat of prelim second-half falterings. It was a good, clean win to bring home yet another gold medal, and to furthermore do so in a very pleasing way. Although the US was able to win the tournament with a slightly depleted roster, it’s clear that the international world is starting to become a legitimate threat. To continue to win gold, USA Basketball must view the feat as a challenge rather than an entitlement. Had the US not played the full 40 minutes in the semis against Spain, the team easily could have lost. The gold medal triumph shouldn’t completely whitewash the team’s struggles. I think fans (myself included) would appreciate it if the bigger stars, such as Steph Curry and Chris Paul, could have the courage to step up and make it out in 2020. This time, the lessor known players were able to get things figured out in time. But my advice to the superstars is: if you take your eyes off the ball, it could be stolen away. And no American fan would care to watch a ceremony with another country’s anthem blaring from the speakers. You can follow me on Twitter @JeffreyNewholm and our blog @NutsAndBoltsSP.