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The real ‘Dream Team’ has arrived in Rio

USA Select Team v United States Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
USA Select Team v United States
The USA Women’s Basketball Team 2016
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages.

Prepare to feast your eyes on the greatest collection of talent the United States has ever assembled.

We’re talking about the 2016 USA Women’s basketball team. The real ‘Dream Team’ in the 2016 Olympics.

Granted, there is one glaring omission here, and that has already been addressed earlier in the spring. Right now, we as basketball fans should focus on the present, which looks to be as promising as ever.

If you don’t believe it, ask Maya Moore.

In a press conference the team hosted on August 3, Moore was really enthusiastic about the talent on this team.

“I just feel like the longer USA Basketball is around, and great players are participating, the better the teams have gotten,” Moore said. “Thirty years from now, there might be a team that is better than ours, but I feel like looking from top to bottom, the talent, the experience, the records of some of the players coming in, it’s just really unbelievable to see. We do have the ability to make our own destiny.”

That’s pretty impressive for a team that hasn’t lost a game in Olympic competition since 1992 (a 79-73 loss to the Unified Team).

This year’s team, however, might boost legitimacy to Moore’s claim. On the 2016 edition of the USA team: three 3-time gold medalists, 5 WNBA MVP’s, 9 WNBA champions, as well as the only 4-time Final Four MOP in NCAA history.

For first-time players like Elena Delle Donne, the honor of suiting up for Team USA is no laughing matter.

“I’m honored to wear that USA across my chest and know what it means and what it means to represent the history of women’s basketball and what these incredible women have done before us. Now, it’s time for us to pave our own path,” Delle Donne said.

In the weeks prior to today, the team went on an exhibition tour, going 4-0, including an 83-43 drumming of Team Canada. However, the team didn’t skate through the tour, almost losing to the USA Select Team, a team that featured Odyssey Sims (2014 gold medalist).

The pressure to win is nothing new to this team, especially to its head coach, Geno Auriemma. As the head coach of the Connecticut Huskies (where he coached fellow Olympians Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Sue Bird and Tina Charles), Auriemma has won 11 national championships and currently has the highest winning percentage of any NCAA basketball coach on the men’s or women’s side (.877).

However, coaching the national team, where you are being looked at on a global scale, is definitely something Auriemma thinks about.

“Every group feels the pressure to win when you are representing your country,” Auriemma said. “I almost put myself in the position of some of these soccer coaches when they play in the World Cup, where you can play great, you dominate a game, you can out-shoot an opponent 30 to two, and one of those goes in, and you lose one – nothing, and you are just devastated. And the whole country feels the pain. I don’t know that it is that crazy in the United States, but since this is basketball, it takes on that kind of significance.”

Auriemma might not think it’s that crazy in the United States, but for many fans who love watching the women’s game, the 2016 Olympics is crucial. In a year where the WNBA has seen attendance and viewership reach all-time levels. In order to capitalize on the new audience, the USA National team will have to continue its dominance on the court.

The USA Women’s National Team, going into this year’s Olympics, has won seven of the last eight gold medals, only losing one game in the process. While it looks like it has been easy considering how badly they’ve beaten competition, the team will be the first to tell you that it isn’t.

USA Select Team v United States
Sue Bird
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Sue Bird, a two-time gold medalist, looking to add a third, will testify to that.

“People see that streak, and they view it as dominant, which it is, but each team has its own journey, its own path through this entire experience,” Bird said. “And contrary to what the scoreboard might tell you, it’s really not that easy. It can be stressful at times trying to come together with these other players and figure it out and make it work.”

As Bird said, each team has its own journey and force that drives them.

For Angel McCoughtry, who is looking for her second gold medal, it’s helping Bird, Taurasi and Tamika Catchings get their FOURTH gold medal.

“It’s so tough to get four gold medals, especially a sport where it’s a team sport,” McCoughtry said. “You can do it in individual sports, but to be in a team sport, it’s so tough to get that many medals. So, that is freaking amazing. We are going to make sure that we help them to get that fourth, to make history.”

Time will tell whether the 2016 USA National team can get it done. Their first test will come on Sunday, August 7, when the team laces up against Senegal.