Challenge sets tone for Greece

by Jack Gallagher

SAITAMA — There was a seminal moment in Greece’s victory over the United States in their semifinal game at the FIBA World Championship that would have defied belief in years past.

Guard Dimitrios Diamantidis took the ball at the top of the key in the third quarter and ordered his teammates to clear out so he could go one-on-one with perhaps the best player in the NBA — LeBron James.

Not only did the 198-cm Diamantidis get what he wanted, he then sank a 3-pointer right in the face of the 208-cm James to give his team a 62-50 lead. It was the kind of play that had to shake the confidence of even the most seasoned member of the U.S. squad.

To see one of their biggest stars broken down like that had to be disheartening. It was just one of many incredible plays the Greeks made on their way to a stirring victory.

There weren’t many who gave them much of a chance in the matchup against the cavalcade of stars the U.S. brought to Japan, but in the final analysis it didn’t matter, because in events like this and the Olympics there are no second chances once the first round is over.

The U.S. team found this out the hard way on Friday. Long gone are the days when it could just show up and expect to advance to the final of an international tournament.

The defeat by Greece will result in the third straight disappointing showing for the Americans, who settled for the bronze medal in Athens in 2004, and finished sixth on home soil in the 2002 World Championship.

There is an old saying: “There are times in life that can be defining moments. It’s a question of whether you define them or they define you.”

Friday’s loss proved to be the latter for Team USA.