USA Basketball: Five Consecutive Gold Medals

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com

"We came here to win gold. It's not easy to just be put together and be expected to win a gold medal. It's a special feeling." - Diana Taurasi

Think about the following few statements for a moment.

- With the 86-50 over France today, the United States women have not lost a game in the Olympics since falling to the Unified Team in the 1992 Games.

- They are riding a 41-0 winning streak that dates to the '92 bronze medal game, played 20 years ago this week (8/7/92), and includes golds in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and now 2012.

- Overall in Olympic play the U.S. women are now 58-3 since women's basketball was added to the Olympic slate in 1976.

- With its five-straight gold medals won from 1996-2012, the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team became the most successful U.S. women's traditional team sport in history.

- In the London 2012 Games, the U.S. women outscored their opponents 725-450.

- During the 41-game streak, the team has failed to win by double-digits in just one game.

- With its five-straight gold medals won from 1996-2012, the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team became the most successful U.S. women's traditional team sport in history. Further, no other country's women's traditional team sport can boast four consecutive Olympic gold medals.

Simply put, this should (and will) go down as one of the greatest accomplishments in Olympic history.

It's obviously difficult to articulate what this victory means to the players and Team USA staff; in reality, only they will know the true magnitude of what this prestigious honor feels like.

As observers, however, there's a certain sense of pride and joy seeing your favorite athletes, in the sport you love most, setting aside egos and accolades while uniting in one common goal and representing your country. One needs to look no further than the Mercury's own Diana Taurasi who has been on a whirlwind journey over the past two years, and what this must mean to her (as evidenced by a rare outpouring of emotion on the medal stand).

It's no secret that women's basketball is always fighting to get respect. Or, more accurately, when substantial buzz has been generated (as demonstrated in the Olympics), it becomes imperative to find ways to sustain the momentum and drum up more fans.

The good news? For any casual fan watching Team USA play in the London 2012 games, the U.S. gave them absolutely every reason to come back to women's basketball.

Some games were won by stringent defense, others by an explosion on the offensive end of the floor.

Some games featured an epic game from a post player, others from lights-out shooting from a guard along the perimeter.

Nevertheless, even though the games were mostly blow-outs, they were still extremely compelling and showcased the best women's basketball in the world.

Take today's gold medal game for instance.

In the first half, the U.S. struggled to get much of anything going offensively...except for Candace Parker. CP3 exploded for 15 points and nine rebounds in an impressive 7-9 shooting display. Defensively, Diana Taurasi (who also had a game high six assists) locked down France's superstar player, Celine Dumerc. In the second half, the U.S. allowed just 25 total points from France, while exploding for 49 of their own.

In truth, it was a quintessential example of the type of fun and excitement that women's basketball offers.

Was the U.S. expected to win? Absolutely.

But it shouldn't take anything away from the amazing and unprecedented feat they've achieved.

On behalf of the Phoenix Mercury, congratulations to the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team (and our own Diana Taurasi) not just for winning the gold medal in London, but for being such phenomenal ambassadors of women's basketball to the entire world. Thank you.