OLYMPIC GAMES

Kevin Durant "so proud" as he lifts Team USA to gold glory again

Kevin Durant was hailed as Team USA's greatest ever player after inspiring another gold medal triumph, beating France at Tokyo 2020.

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Tokyo Olympics: Kevin Durant 'so proud' as he lifts Team USA to gold glory again

Kevin Durant said it felt "incredible" after he won a third gold medal and helped Team USA reach four in a row at the Olympics. The men's basketball tournament looked primed for a potential shock when the United States team lost to France in their opening group game at Tokyo 2020, yet it came full circle as victory over the same opposition in Saturday's final tied up another success at the Games. The USA won 87-82 against a French side who gave them trouble all game long, but a game-high 29 points from Durant carried Gregg Popovich's team to top spot on the podium.

Durant ready to celebrate

"I'm so proud of this team," Durant said. "The coaching staff prepared us so well every single day, even some days when we didn't feel like practising but it was worth it at the end. I’m so glad. I’m ready to go home and celebrate. I love our country and this team is just amazing, it’s just incredible. How we came together. The adversity that we went through, so many people doubting us early on too. We get that support from our families, our friends, you know it’s bigger than us. We wanted to come here finish it and look alive."

Pre-Olympics defeats to Australia and Nigeria, followed by the France loss when competition began, hinted at major shortcomings in Popovich's ranks. A host of withdrawals from the planned original roster meant this was a depleted team, but Durant proved to be a driving force throughout the tournament.

"This one feels good because we went through a lot," said the Brooklyn Nets superstar. "We had a lot of first-time guys on the team, new experience for everyone on the team, COVID, the kind of bubble we were in, no fans, no one expecting us to lose. We heard it all over the past few weeks about our team. To fight through this adversity against a great team like these guys ... to come together so fast – it was beautiful to see, it was beautiful to be a part of."

There was widespread acclaim for Durant's on-court leadership. Draymond Green earned a second Olympic gold and said Durant had "carried" the USA to gold, rating the 32-year-old as the greatest player in the history of the team.

"He's been special," Green said. "He is one of the best players to ever play this game, one of the most special guys you have ever seen lace their shoes and take the basketball court. He carried this team like we needed him to, like he was supposed to. Coming back for his third Olympics, all-time USA scorer, there's been a lot of great players to don this jersey – he is number one. That’s a special thing."

Jrue Holiday, who added the gold medal to his NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks, also raved about Durant, saying: "Doing it on the world stage and doing it against different countries and actually being on his team now has been pretty cool to see – how he carries the game, carries his teammates and takes over a game.”

Bam Adebayo said Durant had been "phenomenal", adding: "The thing I like about Kevin the most, he's one of the greatest scorers in our league but also he's a genuine person. People try to bash him in the media but he's one of those guys that got your back 24/7. Being around him, being around this group of guys, we created a brotherhood."