It wasn't supposed to be hard. American women's basketball team has won gold at every Olympics since Atlanta in 1996, where U.S. success — anticipated and then realized — helped to launch the WNBA. The W, in turn — though teams come and go — remains the world's best showcase for professional women's basketball: this year's U.S. team had nothing but WNBA all-stars, including the three best scorers in the league, its strongest pure low-post player, and its two best point guards. The volatile, exuberant Diana Taurasi can score from anywhere on the court, and dominate almost anybody one on one, as long as she doesn't foul out; Seimone Augustus has cultivated what might be the purest, most beautiful jump shot in the history of the women's game, with Maya Moore's two- and three-point arc close behind. Sylvia Fowles, whose musculature reminds me of several comic-book superheroes, can hold a position like nobody else, and elevate like a military helicopter. As for the point guards, the players (often shorter than all the others) who bring the ball up the court and often control the flow of the game: Sue Bird has a legion of imitators for good reason, and Lindsay Whalen seems to have jet thrusters in her sneakers, the ability to pass through solid objects (e.g. defenders), and eyes in the back of her head.
For Part 1 of the "We Can Be Heroes" Olympics series, click here