London’s Top 10 Most Memorable Moments
With the London Olympic Games over, Marc Howard gives us his countdown of the Top Ten Most Memorable Moments for Australian basketball.
The Closing Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games has been held, the fireworks have exploded and the sounds of the Spice Girls and George Michael have faded away, so it’s time to reflect on what was an amazing period for Australian basketball.
It seemed that there was a never ending array of memorable moments for the Boomers and Opals in London as the women clinched the Bronze Medal and the men reached the Quarter Finals stage.
We take a look back at our top ten highlights of the London Olympic Games from the perspective of Australian basketball.
10. Boomers play Team USA tough
Whilst a 33-point loss hardly seems like it should be memorable other than in nightmares, the way the Boomers pushed Team USA and its payroll of multi-millionaire NBA stars in their sudden-death Quarter Final is certainly worth remembering. The undefeated Americans led by 14 at the half and nearly everybody on the planet expected that the contest was over. Nobody told the Boomers however as Australia scored 11 of the first 14 points of the second half on the back of some Patty Mills and Joe Ingles magic to pull within three points of the ‘Dream Team’ in the third period. Ultimately, the Boomers simply couldn’t hold back the Americans and a final quarter collapse ensured the Americans weren’t upset by the underdog Aussies, but the Boomers gained a huge measure of respect through their audacious tenacity.
9. Dellavedova to Baynes alley-oop(s)
This is technically more than just one memorable moment, as Boomers point guard Matthew Dellavedova connected with Australian big man Aron Baynes on an alley-oop play in just about every game in London. The play was labelled by many as “unstoppable”, with the pair running the pick and roll at the centre of the court and Dellevedova lobbing the perfect alley-oop pass to Baynes as he rolled to the hoop, seemingly at will. With both players still with many years ahead of them, the move could well be a glimpse at the go-to play for the Boomers for years to come.
8. Opals push Americans
It came a game earlier than most expected and ended with the Opals being relegated to the Bronze Medal playoff instead of the hoped-for Final, but the Australian women’s clash with the USA in the Semi-Finals was one of the most anticipated match-ups of the Games. After clashing in the past three straight Olympic finals, the Opals and USA were favoured to meet once more for the gold medal until the upstart French team put a spanner in the works with their OT victory over Australia in pool play. The USA went into the Semi Final undefeated, but the Opals pushed the Americans to the limit. The 13-point margin at the game’s end flattered Team USA and the Opals were in the contest right until the very end. Whilst it is doubtful that any of the Opals players or coaching staff were satisfied with the result, they won a legion of new Australian fans with their grit and don’t-back-down attitude against the Americans.
7. Mills’ 39-point explosion
Boomers point guard Patty Mills took the team on his back when they were struggling against host nation Great Britain in their pool match, scoring 39 points in an offensive explosion. With the Boomers staring at a possible first round upset and trailing by 15 points in the third period, Mills sparked a 70-29 run in the second half with an array of shots that was truly breathtaking. To put that performance in perspective, it was the second-highest score by an Australian ever at Olympic level and more than the likes of Boomers offensive legends Andrew Gaze and Shane Heal ever managed to tally.
6. Jackson breaks the record
Lauren Jackson has long been recognised as one of the world’s best players, but she also ensured the record books reflected this when she broke the Olympic scoring record for women’s basketball in London. Jackson hit a jumper with 3:46 remaining in her team’s win over China that gave her 536 points, which is one more than former Brazilian star Janeth Arcain’s Olympic career total. LJ finished London on 575 career point. With her closest active rival being China’s Lijie Miao on just 284, it seems likely the record will be Jackson’s for quite some years to come.
5. LJ carries the flag
When an Australian basketballer carrying the flag at an Olympic Opening Ceremony only ranks as the fifth most memorable moment of a Games, you know it’s been a pretty special two weeks. Opals star Lauren Jackson was given the Australian Olympic Team’s ultimate honour, and proudly waved the flag at the head of the Australian team as they marched into the stadium. Following in the footsteps of former Boomers captain Andrew Gaze when he performed the same duty at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, her smile lit up the arena and provided a moment that all Australians will remember for quite some time.
4. Boomers upset Russia
Let’s get the asterisk out of the way up front. Yes, this game was a dead rubber, with neither team having anything to win or lose and Quarter Finals match-up set in stone before the tip. Yet the Boomers win over Russia to close out pool play in Group B was a sensational performance. Not only did Australia defeat one of the best teams in the world, but they did so on a buzzer-beating three-point play by superstar guard Patty Mills that had Aussie basketball fans around the world pumping their fists and disturbing their neighbours with screams of delight. Everyone in the stadium knew Mills wanted the last shot (after all he did lead the scoring in London), yet the Boomers ran the perfect play and he got it anyway. If not for Memorable Moment number two below, Mills’ triple would likely have been the shot of the tournament for Australia.
It happened so quickly, and with such natural nonchalance, that when Liz Cambage drove down the middle of the lane in the Opals pool game against Russia and threw down a vicious dunk, it almost went unnoticed. Unnoticed that is until the Australian bench exploded in celebration at what is believed to have been the first ever dunk by a female basketballer at an Olympic Games. The play quickly went viral, with YouTube clips of the dunk racking up thousands of views around the world (one has almost 400,000 and counting). We also have Twitter to thank for the birth of Cambage’s new nickname – ‘Slambage’.
2. Snell’s triple treat
The Opals were done and dusted in regulation against France in their Group B match. Down three points with just 3.3 seconds on the clock and the length of the floor to advance the ball after a French free throw attempt. Impossible. Enter Belinda Snell. France missed a free throw attempt that would have put the game beyond doubt. The Opals rebounded the ball, Snell called for the outlet pass, got it, took one dribble and let fly with a prayer from behind the half-court line between a pair of French defenders. Prayer answered. The ball banked through the net, sending the game to an extra period and giving the Opals hope of a reprieve. Whilst that reprieve lasted just five minutes and the French ultimately sealed the upset win, Snell sank one of the most memorable shots in Australian Olympic history.
1. Kristi’s Bronze send-off
Whilst the buzzer beaters by Mills and Snell, Cambage’s unexpected dunk and Jackson’s flag-bearing honour all would be worthy number one Memorable Moments, it’s simply impossible to go past the performance of veteran guard Kristi Harrower in the Opals Bronze Medal game against Russia. Playing her final game for Australia at the age of 37, Harrower was the oldest player in London. At just 163cm she was also one of the shortest players in the tournament. None of that mattered to Harrower. She was determined not to end her international career with a loss, and started the game on a mission. She drove fearlessly into the paint against the Russian tall timber time and time again. She played dogged defence and controlled the tempo of the Australian offence. By the time the final buzzer sounded Harrower had scored 21 points as well as adding four assists in a performance for the ages. As her teammates paused their celebrations to hoist her on to their shoulders as a mark of respect, the previously buried emotions surrounding her final game burst to the surface and she unashamedly let tears roll down her cheeks. You didn’t need to be a basketball fan to appreciate the power of the moment. It was what makes sport great.
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for the entire Olympics will remain in my thoughts forever....thank you team for being such a beautiful group of individuals....you have made my 2012!! Fayx