After the game Tuesday came the moment this 2012 Team USA felt like the original Dream Team.
Following the USA’s crushing Tunisia, in the handshake line Tunisian forward Mohamed Hadidane (who scored 11 points in the game) took off his shoe and handed it to Kobe Bryant with a sharpie and asked for his autograph. Right there on the court. Kobe obliged.
My favorite part of that was it was Hadidane’s own shoe, right off his foot. The shoe he had just played in.
We saw this kind of thing all the time with the original Dream Team back in 1992. Back then players on the other teams worshiped these NBA stars.
But that was a very different basketball world. Every team other than Tunisia in the Olympic Tournament has current and former NBA players — guys not just intimidated by the presence of Kobe Bryant (or LeBron James or Kevin Durant or… you get the idea). That rubs off on other players. Even a team like the USA’s Thursday opponent Nigeria, which has just two guys who have seen the NBA hardwood (Ike Diogu and Al-Farouq Aminu), don’t play in awe of the NBA stars anymore. The impact of those two guys permeates the team. And on the elite teams (Spain, Argentina) these are basically NBA squads.
But Hadidane was not going to be denied — he got his fandom geek on and was proud.