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Team USA 2012.

Olympics: Where does a gold medal stand in the realm of the NBA?

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The Olympics are upon us once again and another crop of American NBA stars are flying the flag in the hope of claiming yet another gold.

There's no doubt about it, the NBA championship is still the pinnacle of every basketball player's career. Playing around 100 games against the best in the business and coming out on top is a feeling only a select few get to experience and it immortalises people into basketball history.

However, the international stage is growing. It's taken some time, and the United States are still some way out in front, but the others are catching up. With that improvement, the Olympics becomes a more prestigious event every four years.

Thanks to the 'Dream Team' of 1992, the world set their sights on matching America. The 2004 games in Athens were the culmination of all that hard work, coupled with the States' attitude that they were guaranteed gold, as Argentina topped the podium and sentenced the dominant nation to the Bronze medal game.

The Argentinian team stands on the podiu

International competition holds a special place in players' lives. Not everyone can win a ring and a gold can be a worthy replacement; Charles Barkley, Carmelo Anthony, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Vince Carter are just some of the names that fall into that category.

PRIDE

Playing with the USA brings a different feel. Players aren't competing for a single city or state, they are bringing the country together to play against the rest of the world and truly call themselves the best.

Take football, for example; the World Cup is the pinnacle of the game, all the domestic and continental titles do not come close to the feeling of leading a country to greatness with millions watching from across the globe. The FIBA World Cup does not compare, and the Olympics sees basketball thrust into the spotlight - it's about pride, passion and emotion.

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball

For the Americans, while many have pulled out for different reasons, it still means they are amongst the elite, the best in their country, and while many would probably trade it in for a ring, it sets them apart.

However, when looking at players from other countries, the Olympics takes on a whole new meaning. Take Manu Ginobili for example; he's won four championships with the San Antonio Spurs but had to fight tooth and nail for his gold medal in 2004 as Argentina became the only other nation to top the podium since 1988. What does he cherish more? Would Pau Gasol trade one of his two titles for glory with Spain?

It's easy to be dismissive when you're on the top, but the rest of the world is coming, they've had a glimmer of success and will want to write their names into history. With the added competition, the Olympics will only become of greater importance. As more overseas players join the NBA, that can only be good for the game.

Topics:
Team USA Olympics
NBA
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference

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