The pressure was placed on the United States Women’s Basketball team as they entered the championship game in the 2021 Olympics. Winning would mean a 54 game winning streak and the seventh straight gold medal for the U.S. team. They just had to overcome one more team, Japan.
As the team entered the fourth quarter of the game, tension was in the air and the 12 women could smell victory. The United States brought home the gold and the team experienced nothing less than pure joy. Despite the recent win, the future for this team is unclear. Several team members with multiple gold medals under their belts will be retiring and the next Olympic Games will certainly look different.
Many believe that the talent across the globe is quickly growing, and with so many new players on the U.S. team, the dominance that this team has now may be diminished quickly. Even during the team’s recent performance in Japan, the weakness of some of the younger players became clear. The United States pulled off a win, but they did not perform as many expected. It was not a clean sweep. Other teams including China and Belgium have dedicated programs to advance the success of competing in the next Olympic Games.
Even as global teams shift, the United States remains a strong, dominant competitor. Since the 1960s the rest of the world has acknowledged that the U.S. only accepts the best of the best players and that this remains the team to beat in the uncommon years. The team is aware of the expanding global talent and continues to respect and appreciate their competition. They are a team that values hard work and understanding of how the world around them plays the sport that they love.
Two of the women retiring, Bird and Taurasi, have set the standard for Women’s Basketball in the United States and led their team to success for nearly 20 years. As they leave, a new generation of women must step up to fill their shoes and continue U.S. success in basketball. These young players have a big name to uphold, but with the guidance and legacy of Bird and Taurasi, they stand a good chance at victory.