The USA Women’s Basketball team has created a dynasty. In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the stakes were high for the team. There were many records set to be broken and a lot on the line. During this year’s Olympics, the team rose to the challenges, performed under pressure, and brought home a gold medal.
This 2020 gold medal is a record-tying 7th straight gold medal. This ties USA women’s basketball with the USA men’s basketball team for most consecutive victories in a team sports competition. It is also the 9th gold medal overall. With this victory, the USA has a winning streak of 55 games at the Olympic level.
But that’s not all. Two of the players on the roster, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, competed in their fifth Olympic games. After clinching the gold, they became the first basketball players with five Olympic gold medals.
Coach Dawn Staley also made history as the first black woman to coach the team. She had a successful Olympic career as a player with three gold medals, and winning gold in Tokyo made her the second woman to win the tournament as both a player and a head coach.
The USA women’s team has dominated the international scene primarily because of an unmatched frontcourt. Powerful post play has been the key to success, with players like 6’9” Brittney Griner, 2020 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, 2x WNBA champion Breanna Stewart, four-time Olympian Sylvia Fowles, and three-time Olympian Tina Charles controlling the paint.
The team also struck a balance of seasoned veterans and fresh faces. With players like Bird and Taurasi leading the guards, first-time Olympians Jewell Loyd, Ariel Atkins, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Chelsea Gray, and Napheesa Collier had an opportunity to learn from the best before the torch is passed on to the younger generation.
With such a packed roster, every player had the potential for an amazing game. But the key players that drove the USA’s success in Tokyo were Griner, Stewart, and Wilson. Griner, a 6-time All-Star, was a consistent key to victory pulling in 30 points and 5 boards in the gold medal match. Her 30 point game broke the record for most points ever for an American in a gold medal game, previously held by Lisa Leslie. Griner’s defensive presence in the post also made it nearly impossible for teams to establish their post-game.
Wilson was integral to the success of the USA team and had a great performance in the final match. She contributed on both ends of the floor, with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 blocks.
Stewart, who was quiet in the first few games, got on a roll as the competition progressed. She shined against Australia with 23 points, and in the final match, she put up 14 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists.
After some losses in the exhibition games and close games in group play against France and Nigeria, USA basketball was challenged more than ever before. In years past, the team would blow the competition out of the water; they faced stiff competition this year. Despite the challenge, they made it through group play undefeated.
Next, the US faced Australia, who they lost to in an exhibition game three weeks prior. The rivalry between these two teams is strong, with Australia often taking silver or bronze behind the US. Despite lingering doubt from their early loss, the US could snag a decisive 79-55 victory to move on to the semifinals against Serbia.
By the semi-final match, Team USA had found their groove. They set their sights on the gold medal match and blew past Serbia 79-59 to secure their spot. For the final game, they would face the Olympic host, Japan.
In the gold medal match, Japan played well-disciplined basketball with a team full of highly skilled three-point shooters. While Japan kept it closed in the first quarter and brought it back at the end of the third quarter, in the end, they couldn’t compete with the size that team USA brings to the floor. The US secured the gold, 90-75.
While some fans are grumbling about tight games signaling a decline in the USA basketball prowess, coach Dawn Staley has other ideas. She believes that there is more competition in these games shows the progress women have made in the sport. The intense competition will also draw more viewers, as people tune in to watch exciting, nail-biter games.
For now, the USA women’s basketball dominance continues. Their victory at the 2020 games truly writes them into history as one of the greatest dynasties basketball has ever seen. Next, the gleam of gold in Paris 2024 waits on the horizon.