SYDNEY. US basketball has been surrounded by a fair amount of uncertainty as it entered a new chapter in an era following Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.

But in front of a crowd of 15,895 fans at the Sydney SuperDome, most of whom enthusiastically supported Team China, Team USA in its new guise successfully cemented the legacy of those who came before them by winning a fourth consecutive World Cup. Cup gold and 11th overall after beating China 83–61 in the final.

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Just five players from the team that won the seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal in Tokyo changed into red, white and blue in Sydney. No Bird, Taurasi, Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles or Britney Griner. After being defined by years of experience and statesmanship, and typically made up of mostly players from a few elite schools, the team that took the floor instead included only one 30-year-old representative from 10 student programs. and six newcomers to the senior team at that level of competition. Even head coach Cheryl Reeve, who won four WNBA titles with the Minnesota Lynx, has just risen to the helm of one of the sport’s greatest dynasties.

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“Maybe all over the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the US,'” Reeve said. “And I think we’ve shown that our league, the WNBA and professional basketball players in the United States are really, really good. And the depth of the talent that we have has been demonstrated.”

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Indeed, the US was undefeated in group play, winning by an average margin of 40.75 points and finishing only one game under 15 points. According to FIBA, their 22-point victory over China was also the biggest margin of victory in a World Cup final.

The US has only lost one game in a major international competition (World Cup or Olympics) since 1994 – the 2006 World Cup semi-final against Russia – has since won 30 consecutive games in the tournament.

“We know that everyone wants to beat us. Everyone wants what we have, which is gold medals, victories and the like, and with that comes the pressure,” said Breanna Stewart. “We have great players who can handle this pressure and perform at the highest levels.

“Just hugging it [pressure]without fighting it and knowing that all the legends are in front of us, what they did, how they won and stuff like that, yes, every team is different and we have to leave our mark on history.”

With this victory, the United States also officially qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

While last year’s Olympic run in the Tokyo COVID-19 bubble seemed to carry an element of heaviness as the US struggled to find footing throughout the event, their 2022 World Cup experience was defined by a spirit of fun and lightness. With champagne-soaked hair at the post-match press conference, Reeve lightly poked Aya Wilson for finally figuring out where she should have been in the gold medal game and for dropping 18 points defensively in the first halftime. With a bottle of champagne in hand, Wilson spent most of her second championship in two weeks showing off the Tissot watch she had earned as tournament MVP.

“According to my watch, we are gold medalists,” Wilson said. And later: “[In the quarterfinals] Serbia came out and hit us in the face. And I thought: “Not in our watch.”

In other words: the children in the US are all right.

“I wanted them to make this tournament interesting,” Reeve said. “I think sometimes when you can have pressure to win or perceived pressure, it takes away from the fun. And I wanted to make sure that we enjoyed this trip and I thought that this group was a great group. I know I liked it the hell out, and I hope they do too.”

Players across the board agreed with this sentiment. And the worst thing about competition? New look, the younger US isn’t going anywhere and isn’t going to stop the fun anytime soon.

“I don’t think we’re going to stop, that’s for sure,” said Stewart, 27. “Our age has definitely gone down [compared to Tokyo]. But we have a lot of newcomers in the league coming into their prime, in their prime. It’s hard to stop.”

The Chinese silver medalist made it to the finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1994, and also the last time he won a medal in a major international competition. Host nation Australia took home the bronze after a 95-65 win over Canada, in which former WNBA MVP and champion Lauren Jackson, who is still playing at 41, lost 30 points in her last game for the Opals.

Wilson’s World Championship MVP honorary title marked another accolade after she brought home her second WNBA MVP award, First Defensive Player of the Year and first WNBA title of the season. She was joined by Bridget Carlton (Canada), Han Xu (China), Stewart (USA) and Steph Talbot (Australia).

“I’ve been here before, I’ve had players where Aja, where you win a WNBA championship, you come in and win gold,” Reeve said. “It’s really, really special. And they make it easy. This is not true. They are incredibly talented. Aja Wilson is incredibly talented.”

“That’s why you donate,” Wilson added. “My teammates hold me accountable. They put me in the best position so I didn’t really feel tired. This is what we live for. To be honest, this is my job and I love my job. I love what I do and now I can go to sleep. I’m so excited. My bed is literally calling my name.”

Just two weeks ago, having just won the WNBA title, USA team trio Las Vegas Aces 2022 WNBA MVP Wilson, Chelsea Gray (2022 Finals MVP) and Kelsey Plum (first-time All-Star and All-WNBA selection) have been added to their trophy deal. after a hurricane stretch in which they paired up with Team USA well before it began preparations for the event—in fact, not showing up until the third game of the tournament.

Against the backdrop of a somewhat slow start for the US in the championship, the trio became a sensation in the final, scoring 46 out of 83 US points. Wilson had 16 points at 16:35 in the first half and moved to Team USA. After playing five points late in the first quarter and playing 10 points in the half, the US opened with a 25-14 lead in the third to secure a comfortable lead in the fourth.

Jewell Loyd was the other member of Team USA to hit double figures with 11 points.

China was left without Li Meng, their top scorer in the tournament’s first meeting in group play, a 14-point victory for the US, due to illness. USA’s Kalea Copper was out for the second game in a row after suffering a hip injury in the quarterfinals. Alyssa Thomas went down with an upper body injury in the second half, but returned to action after being briefly groomed in the locker room. Wu Tongtong also had to be carried off the floor in the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury.

In their first tournament as WNBA MVP team leaders, Stewart and Wilson successfully carried the mantle left behind by the likes of Bird, Taurasi and Fowles. But the rookies also immediately made themselves felt, and no one as strongly as Thomas, teammates considered her their “glue” and “the most valuable player of this tournament” before the championship.

With Thomas as one of the coordinators, the Reeve group, which was originally deployed during the World Cup qualifiers in February, was able to adopt a defensive identity atypical of the US national team in recent years. Reeve noted that Team USA had 42 rejections against China in the gold medal match. It’s all the more impressive that eight of Team USA arrived late in Sydney, including five who played in the WNBA Finals and arrived during the week of the tournament.

“What pleased me the most was the trust and commitment,” Reeve said. “Go back to Las Vegas and the band that we had, go back to February and they helped us create this identity. And then great players like A’jah came along and were able to help us get over the hump and keep the legacy alive. “

“I don’t look at it as a burden. I think it’s just a stepping stone,” Wilson said. “We are planting seeds for the next generation.

“It’s crazy because Stewie and I took selfies and thought, ‘There’s so much more to come. I remember playing U16 with Stewie and winning the gold medal there, and now we are winning medals at that level. So it’s been incredible, just a journey to keep building that foundation. So many great people who were ahead of us put it down, and now it’s our turn to step forward and be in this situation.”