Monday, August 11th, 2008 at 8:59 am  |  41 responses


Alan Paul recaps the ‘most exciting sports event’ he’s ever attended.

by Alan Paul

Wow. That’s just about all I can say three days into my first Olympics.

I am working as a blogger for NBC.com and they have me running every which way. In addition to covering life in Beijing during the Games, I am being sent out to some choice events, especially those where Chinese athletes are favored to win Gold, to offer some additional commentary. Doing that has taken me to shooting, diving and women’s weightlifting, none of which I ever thought I would attend, much less enjoy – and they’ve all been both fun and remarkably compelling.

But it’s not all new and exotic for me – I am also hitting the basketball games hard. I hope to be at every game Team USA plays, sitting each time in the prime seat reserved for NBC. Yeah, go ahead and pinch me.

You already know all about the game, said to be the most-watched ever. In case, you missed out on something, here’s my game report. A couple of hours before tipoff, I learned that President Bush would meet with the team beforehand. I was invited to tag along with the NBC Sports camera crew capturing the photo op. The wacky tale of what ensued is captured here.

The main thing I want to convey here, 24 hours later and with so much known about the game, is this: I felt honored to be there for the game and it was probably the most exciting sports event I’ve ever been to. That might seem impossible considering that the final score was 101-70 and the second half was about as tense as a Globetrotters game, becoming a veritable dunkathon much to the delight of the sold-out crowd and, unbelievably enough, some of the Chinese players.

But the beginning of the game was just remarkably electric. The energy was so intense it felt like the stadium – new and beautiful, by the way – was going to blast off into outer space. One of the truly unique things was how intensely the crowd was cheering for both teams. The player introductions were deafening. The national anthems were moving. This was an extremely hard ticket to score and the entire crowd also just seemed really pleased to be there.

It was a great thing that the Chinese came out shooting very well, keeping them in the game for most of the first half and keeping that intense energy flow going. Towards the end of the second quarter, USA began to take control and never really looked back. I don’t think you can take all too much away from the game in terms of the American’s chances. It was too much of an outlier game, the talent gap was too extreme and they definitely had some early game yips about their first Olympics game.

Some thoughts on the Chinese team: YI JIanlin looked totally lost most of the game. Sorry Nets fans. Sun Yue, newly signed by the Lakers after being drafted by them last year, looked good. He did not back down against his future teammate Kobe in the early going, made some threes and created open looks for others.

Sun’s backup Chen Jianghua also looked great, though he is still probably too frail to play real D and his outside shot looks to be severely lacking. He comes in and quickly splits the D, driving in and as the defense collapses, he kicks out to the corner for an open three. The nest time down, he makes a similar move, freezes the d with a fake pass and goes to the hoop for an easy two. I did a Slam piece on Chen two years ago and was happy to see him looking good. He’s a streetball kid who was supposed to be the first great Chinese pg, but his development ahs stalled a bit and it was touch and go if he would even make the National Team. I’m hoping he keeps developing.

Kobe’s shot was really off early in the game, but he turned the whole thing around with a couple of steals that led to fast break slams by D Wade and Lebron and put the boot on China’s throat.

After the game, the press conference was pretty comical. The Chinese host didn’t speak great English and the huge international press contingent asked rather, uh, stupid questions. Several tried to get the Chinese player and coach to discuss USA”s “showng off” referring to all the dunks. When Coach K got the same question, he had a great answer. “I didn’t think anyone was showing off. We were playing hard. We were going to the hoop hard so we didn’t get our shots blocked. Maybe there’s a language problem between us and ‘playing hard’ is what you really mean.”

A Chinese reporter asked Chris Bosh if they were the new Dream Team. “We’re not trying to the Dream Team,” he said. “We’re just trying to be a really solid American team. We can’t compare to those guys because they did so much as individuals than we did. We have a lot to do and if we win, then maybe someone can give us a name.”

Someone else asked if he would guarantee a gold medal. More precisely, he said, “Are you sure you will win all of the games?

Bosh’s reply: “We have confidence in ourselves. That’s the point in competing and having pride in our team. There are a lot of great reams but it starts with us; we need to worry about ourselves not others. We need to prepare, not beat ourselves, not underestimate anyone. If we do that, then we are going to be in great condition.”

Then the press conference moderator said, “Thank you Bosh. You can leave and have a rest.” That drew a laugh from both the player and the huge press contingent.

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  • Missy

    The links aren’t working. You really peaked my interest with this comment and I can’t find the olympics blog section on nbc.com: “The wacky tale of what ensued is captured here.”

  • marcin

    How’s it feel to be seen by 1 billion people?

  • krod

    Then the press conference moderator said, “You can leave and have a rest IN PEACE.” :D

  • http://www.slamonline.com Earl “E.Sneed” Sneed

    AP, saw you on the tv for the pregame…great job my dude! Great ambassador for SLAM!

  • Missy

    Sorry… guess I jumped the gun. I just love slam so much I have it on RSS feed and read it before you were ready.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Alan’s all about getting the information first…details (I.e. links) second. :-)

  • blackjack

    Am I the only person who wasn’t impressed by the way Team USA played. They were very sloppy in the early going. It didn’t hurt them and they clearly dominated China for the remainder of the game, but they need to come out of the gates much better in order to beat the top teams in this tournament.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Earl “E.Sneed” Sneed

    @blackjack: You’re not the only one, but don’t get bent out of shape over a 31-point win!

  • blackjack

    I’m not upset about the win, I’m just saying that if they play that way against Argentina, Manu and Co. will make them pay.

  • Alan Paul

    Blackjack, they looked tight at the beginning and they missed a lot of threes, some open and some forced. At the beginning some of their defensive rotations were slow and China had some open three looks.

    As for the links.. I don’t know.

    Here is my blog page. http://www.nbcolympics.com/destinationbeijing/index.html

    But I am doing all kinds of other stuff that doesn’t end up here. Frankly, I don’t understand the whole system. The wacky story doesn’t seem to have been posted.

    I’ll put it up here if it doesn’t appear by tomorrow morning.

    here is my guo diving story.. not on the blog page. who knows why.


  • Alan Paul

    Here is my weightlifting story.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Earl “E.Sneed” Sneed

    didn’t they lose to Lithuania?????

  • Alan Paul

    Argentina has not looked good blackjack. Anything can happen. But Spain and Greece remain biggest comp. until proven otherwise. I should be there for U.S./Greece on Thursday night.

  • riggs

    I was watching spain last night on telemundo, i think they’re getting hyped a little TOO much

  • http://www.slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    I just can’t get excited about the olympics (lowercase on purpose).

  • Alan Paul

    Truthfully, I’ve never been a huge follower, Russ. But being in the middle of it is just a trip.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Oh, I’m sure. Are you wearing a mask while you’re typing? Haha. Have fun!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Alan, very cool to see you on the pregame piece. Jealousy/envy of you being there in that enviornment. Great work as always.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Thanks Alan. Another two weeks and then you can leave and have a rest.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    My wife came running in my downstairs office when you came up in the pregame, Alan. Well done.

    Love the mask comment, Russ. I am actually hooked up to an O2 tank.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Who doesn’t get excited about water polo?

  • Jackie Moon

    Jose Calderon looked good.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Water polo is the dumbest “sport” I’ve ever sort-of watched in my entire life.

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    I’m a little upset to admit this, but the Men’s 4×100 meter relay had me off my seat, screaming. Really.

  • http://nba.com bbfan

    really just found out today on kroq that trampoline is a sport in the olympics.

  • whooo!

    slam holding it down! caught the short clip of alan being interviewed about b-ball in china. guess slam’s definitely gaining some rep to be put on that big of a stage. good job fellas!

  • Victor

    Chen doesnt have the desire to be a player in the US – i think that simple fact is why his progression leveled off. media was more in love with him during last year’s game against US than this year, but then again, he is also coming off an injury.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Yeah, Jukai.
    The wifey and I, embarrisingly enough, went high fives.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    I watched handball for the first time this weekend. That is an interesting hybrid of soccer and basketball. It’s amazing what qualifies as an Olympic sport.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Man. The sh*t that goes on under the water in any water polo match makes Bruce Bowen look like an angel. Water polo is imho the dirtiest sport ever.

  • Kelman

    Russ thinks polo is stupid, Allen thinks handball isn’t a sport

    You two should watch Equestrian…the horses do all the work, don’t even know why it’s in the Olympics

  • ciolkstar

    Where the F*ck is my last comment at? Haters.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Nima Zarrabi

    Great read Alan. What a trip, indeed.

  • Yunki

    Who wouldn’t get excited about the Olympics? It’s the biggest international event in the world…yet Russ just writes it off for some reason

  • http://slamonline.com Alan Paul

    Thanks for the kind words to anyone who offered them.

    Water polo rocks. I am hoping to get into a match or two. Years ago when I was swimming pretty seriously I got dragged into a few pickup games and they were by far the hardest physcial activities I’ve ever engaged in.

  • Alan Paul

    Story about the presidential photo op:


  • http://slamonline.com Alan Paul

    Story of the wacky Bush photo op and how I got there:


  • The Ghost of Wilt Chamberlain

    I went to almost every basketball game played at the Sydney Olympics, and I have to agree that the atmosphere is second to none. Although the crowds were small, having 15,000 people swearing at the refs in 50 differant languages certainly gave me goose bumps!

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    yeh Wilt it was amazing. anyone ever heard of russia vs. hungary 1956 mens waterpolo? blood all through the pool and sh*t. Equestrian is for rich people, not a sport. Neither is table tennis but so many asian people play it ( same as badminton) that is gets in even though everyone else sucks at it.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin personal

    Well, Water polo isn’t the same after you try and play. Insanely hard (and dirty), I almost drowned. Plus, the guys playing get all the hot chicks, it’s not even fair.

  • ese

    dude mr alan paul, u skipped pau gasol as an all star in ur last article talkin bout foreign players not being stars after all. also ilgauskas, whos not here for health problems, france who didn even make it w tony parker,…