Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi celebrated after becoming the first Olympians to ever win five gold medals in basketball.
Head coach Dawn Staley continues to shatter glass ceilings as she becomes just the fourth women in Team USA Olympic history to win a gold medal as a player (she has 3 of them) and head coach joining Pat Summitt, Anne Donovan and Kara Lawson who coached the the 3-on-3 team to gold earlier in these Olympic Games.
But this gold-medal game was all about the Tower of Power Brittney Griner, winning her second gold medal. She will definitely be back in 2024.
As for Staley, she said following this Olympics she’s stepping down as head coach and gave a strong endorsement for Minnesota Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve to get the nod to lead the squad in the 2024 Paris Games.
In addition to their Olympic exploits Bird, Taurasi and Staley will all place prominently on the WNBA’s “The W25” list of the league’s Top 25 all-time players.
One of them might even win the fan voting for GOAT.
Staley is also the first Black women’s coach of the U.S. Women’s Basketball juggernaut and she also joins Donovan as the only to win a gold medal as a player, assistant and head coach.
Unbeaten in their last 55 Olympic Games, Team USA has been downright dominant winning every Olympic gold medal since the 1996 Atlanta Games. That streak also equals the longest streak by a team in any Olympic sport, matching the US Men’s basketball run from 1936 to 1968.
Five-time Olympic gold medalist Diana Taurasi, had this to say following the victory.
“What can you say? It’s 20 years of sacrifice, of putting everything aside and just wanting to win.”
“It’s never easy playing on this team with the pressure coming from lofty expectations, but this group found a way to win and I’m just happy this group got to enjoy it.”
Taurasi 39, has led the Phoenix Mercury to three WNBA Championships and Bird, 40, who has won four WNBA titles with the Seattle Storm, both won their first gold medals in the 2004 Athens Games.
Taurasi even hinted at a return in Paris, when she’ll be 43 by saying, “See you in Paris!”
Bird, on the other hand sounded as if she’s done.
“Couldn’t have asked for a better ending. There’s not really much else to say. “I feel so proud I’ve been able to wear this uniform for as long as I have, to play along side this one as long as I have, We’ve won, and that’s obviously the story, but I don’t think there’s anyone else I’d rather do it with because we just have so much fun and I love you homie.”
With Bird orchestrating the flow of games and Taurasi scoring, they have been a constant force for the U.S., providing stability for the women’s program since Athens in 2004. They won all 38 at the Olympics they’ve competed in.
Brittney Griner was the superstar of the day scoring 30 points and showign why she’s been one of the most unstoppable forces in WNBA history when functioning on all cylinders.
As for the legends, Bird and Taurasi, the pair walked off-the-court on Sunday arm-in-arm knowing their work was done.
The names have changed around the pair, including greats Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes, Tamika Catchings, and Sylvia Fowles, but the results haven’t.
As these two and head coach Dawn Staley move on, the team is in good hands with Breanna Stewart, Brittney Griner and six newcomers that included A’ja Wilson. 2024 won’t be any different as far as expectations, but the squad will probably be without the two most successful constants in the women’s program since 2004.
Also national team director Carol Callan ends her run which began right before the Americans won the first gold of this streak in 1996. What a 20-year run of dominance and a shining light on the Team USA program.