The Redeem Team
Their playoff battle now far in the rearview, Bosh
and Howard turn their attention to restoring the fallen U.S. men's basketball team to glory.
The erstwhile Dream Team heads to Beijing looking to rebound from a series of disappointing - some might say embarrassing - defeats (hence its new moniker - the "Redeem Team").
After breezing to Olympic gold medals in 1992 (Barcelona), 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney), the U.S. and its roster of high-paid NBA stars lost their lustre at the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis and again at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens. The U.S. squad finished sixth at the worlds and then suffered three defeats in Athens before rebounding to beat Lithuania in the bronze-medal game (Argentina beat Italy for the gold).
The U.S.'s failure to reach the top of the podium - unthinkable when the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson joined forces for the original Dream Team in Barcelona - caused much hand-wringing about the state of American basketball. Some pundits deemed the U.S. game too individualistic to succeed against more team-oriented international foes.
In response, USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo asked potential national-team members in 2005 to make a three-year commitment to the program. Bosh
was one of the players who agreed, and in 2006 he helped the U.S. capture bronze at the world championships in Japan by averaging 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds.
A sore foot kept Bosh
from competing in the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament, but this June he was among the 12 players selected to play in Beijing under legendary collegiate coach Mike Krzyzewski. Motivated by restoring national pride, and with a revamped roster featuring NBA MVP Kobe Bryant, all-world point guard Chris Paul, imposing centre Dwight Howard, and electrifying Bosh
draftmates James, Anthony and Wade, the U.S. is heavily favoured to recapture the Olympic title.
"First and foremost, when I think about the Olympics, I think about when I was a kid and watching the '92 Dream Team win it all, winning the gold medal," the first-time Olympian told Toronto radio station The FAN 590. "It's the prestige of the gold medal, the prestige of the Olympics that is so big to me.
"It's about that before anything else, just competing with the USA on my chest, that's like a dream come true for me."