America experienced unrest on several fronts throughout the first ten years of the twenty-first century. After the terrible events of September 11, 2001, the country would also find itself embroiled in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, while a domestic financial crisis came dangerously close to wrecking the housing market.
Even the US men’s basketball team, which appeared to be unbeatable during the days of the Dream Team with Magic, Jordan, Barkley, and Bird, became vulnerable. But after failures in the 2002 Fiba World Championships, where the Americans fell to Yugoslavia in the quarterfinals, and the disaster at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where they took home bronze, the NBA star-studded team would begin to lose its charm.
On and off the court, America required optimism and a cause to believe once more.
In the new Netflix documentary Redeem Team, which debuted on Friday, the difficulties faced by Team USA basketball in the early 2000s are examined, as well as the sacrifices made in order to achieve redemption in the 2008 Olympics.
Redeem Team, which includes unique interviews with the late Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Coach Mike Krzyzewski, is directed by Jon Weinbach, who brilliantly examined the 1997–98 Chicago Bulls in the award-winning documentary The Last Dance.
Similar to the change in American politics that occurred during the 2008 presidential campaign, Team USA started a quest to reclaim its preeminence on the basketball floor.
When former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo was hired as managing director in the spring of 2005, he was given the keys to a broken sports vehicle and had to locate the correct components to get Team USA back on the road and going in the right direction. Colangelo asked Duke’s renowned Coach K, a powerful motivator with at the time more than two decades of experience teaching international basketball, to lead the club.
The biggest X factor for a squad that desperately needed locker room leadership, though, was the signing of Bryant. Instead of speaking, he acted as an example. Bryant stayed at the hotel and worked out till the early hours of the morning as other squad members went to the Las Vegas Strip to unwind. Bryant, who started off as the team’s lone wolf, would later emerge as the alpha dog.
Bryant also attracted his teammates’ attention by leading by example in games that mattered on their path to the 2008 gold medal. Bryant delivered a stern message before tip-off against a talented Spanish squad that included NBA players like the Gasol brothers, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, and Juan Carlos Navarro. He announced to his teammates in the locker room that the first play would include rushing past Pau Gasol, a member of the Lakers at the moment. Bryant slammed into Gasol’s chest while running at top speed, sending the 7-footer to the floor.
Beyond the athletes and coaches, Redeem Team discusses how for some, winning the gold medal closed a circle. At the height of the Cold War, Team USA 1972 member Doug Collins lost a devastating match to the USSR in Munich. The Soviet squad finally won after three replays of the last three seconds of the game.
During Team USA’s 2008 competitions, Collins provided sports commentary, and his son, Chris Collins, acted as a scout for the group. After winning the gold medal in 2008, Team USA athletes paid tribute to Collins in an effort to offer some consolation for the 1972 loss, which still stings decades later.