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Dream Team ethos gives US gold
By Guy Hand
04:31 AEST Mon Aug 13 2012

This was an Olympic gold medal built on blinging from the same hymn sheet.

Eight years after falling apart in Athens, the United States men's basketball team is exactly that - a team rather than just a collection of highly paid superstars.

Their prize for playing and staying together came on Sunday.

Sport's ultimate and hardest-won bling - an Olympic gold medal - arrived after the sternest of tests by brave Spain before NBA stars Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Chris Paul sparked the US in the final quarter to an epic 107-100 victory.

The US have won five of the six men's basketball gold medals since the Olympics allowed NBA players to take part.

Only failure in 2004, when several key players refused to play and a hastily put-together side could only manage bronze, breaks that streak.

In Beijing they made amends and friends with gold, and showed they were building a team.

In London they have proved themselves as playing for their nation rather than marketing purposes.

"I was happy I was able to represent my country in such a great way. This is one of the best teams, if not the best team ever assembled," James said after some clutch fourth-quarter plays to finish with 19 points.

James - 27 and at his third Olympics - remains unsure whether he will be around for the 2016 campaign.

Veteran guard Kobe Bryant has already declared London his last Games.

But the future looks promising.

Durant, whose game-high 30 points anoints him America's shooting star, is already eyeing the world championships in two years' time.

"It's an unbelievable feeling. I've been able to go watch US athletes in different sports win gold medals here, and it's very inspiring," the 23-year-old said.

"It motivated me to come out and just leave it all out on the floor for my team, for my country."

With David Beckham and Arnold Schwarzenegger among a host of luminaries watching basketball's best burn bright, the teams turned on a show reminiscent of their decider in Beijing, which the Americans also won.

Spain spent three-and-a-half quarters tantalisingly close to the biggest upset of these Games - and among the biggest of any Olympics.

Leading by a point at both halftime and three-quarter-time, the Dream Team clicked up a gear on a fourth quarter 10-2 run led by point guard Paul.

His huge three with the US a point up, followed by a feint and drive to the basket for two, added breathing space before Durant's three-pointer off a Paul assist widened the buffer.

Spain closed to within six again late in the term, before James shone and Paul made an important bucket to stretch the lead into double digits.

Power forward Pau Gasol starred for Spain - 15 of his team-high 24 points coming in the third term to go with eight rebounds.

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