Thursday, August 26, 2004

Basketball Jones

Rumors of our demise, for now at least, have been greatly exaggerated.

ATHENS, Aug. 26 -- Move back the departure day. Everybody's favorite team to pick on won a basketball game. They did not chip acrylic from the rim. They did not let another nation's marksmen shoot them down from 20 feet and beyond. And, most shockingly, it was the opposing coach -- not Larry Brown -- pleading for the gods of the game to correct an injustice.

For one demonstrative game at the Olympics, Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson and America's great sneaker pitchmen performed like -- heraldic trumpets, please -- a men's basketball team from the United States.

Marbury stood behind the three-point line and let fly a bevy of jumpers, most of which found the bottom of the net in a 31-point, record-setting performance that pushed the United States past previously unbeaten Spain, 102-94. Marbury broke the 30-point record held by Charles Barkley and Adrian Dantley for the most points by a U.S. player in the Olympics, and the United States topped the 100-point barrier for the first time in the tournament.

Before a jeering, whistling crowd at Olympic Indoor Hall, the United States advanced to the semifinals, where it will meet Argentina, a 69-64 winner over Greece on Thursday night.