Kevin Durant led Team USA’s victory over France in the men’s basketball final in Tokyo on Saturday, avenging a first-round loss and claiming a 16th gold for the country in the sport.
Durant, who in these Games surpassed Carmelo Anthony as the United States’ highest career scorer, led with 29 points in the 87-82 victory at the Saitama Super Arena.
“You realize, you know, you finished the job, you get the gold medal, you get the trophy, but when you go through that journey, it’s just incredible to be a part of something so special,” said the Brooklyn Nets star who has now won three Olympic gold medals.
“I’m bonded to these guys for life,” he said.
The U.S. team had been slow to start in previous matches, but they kept the heat on France consistently this time. But it was 18 turnovers that proved to be the killer for France.
“Details cost us the game for sure,” said French team captain Nicolas Batum. “You can’t turnover that much against that type of team.”
The championship attracted the biggest crowd yet in these Games to the arena north of Tokyo, with the bottom bowl of seats about half full of athletes, officials, media and volunteers in place of fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.
France earned their third Olympic silver medal in men’s basketball. Slovenia, making their debut at the Games, will play Australia in the bronze medal match later on Saturday.
The U.S. men have historically been the team to beat, with 15 gold medals since 1936 going into these Games. This championship marks their fourth straight gold medal.
But this year’s team proved to be vulnerable, dropping two-straight exhibition games in July and suffering a shock 83-76 defeat to France in the preliminary round of the Games, which was their first defeat on the Olympic stage since 2004.
“The first time we played together as a whole roster was France and lost to them,” said Jrue Holiday, who had 11 points for the United States. “So we just felt like it was only right to meet them in gold and to get our win back.”