The Redeem Team brings the nostalgia in revisiting Team USA Basketball MNT’s run to Olympic Gold in 2008 following losses in 2004-06.
Team USA was never supposed to lose. They’re supposed to be the greatest basketball team on the planet, what with all of these All-Stars playing together and all. Heading into 2008, this was a team that was struggling to do their job and bring home the gold. The losses started piling up at the 2002 FIBA World Championships and continuing on during the 2004 Summer games in Athens. It was back to losing once again at the 2006 FIBA World Championships. Something had to change…enter Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski after the 2004 losses to put the Team USA Basketball MNT in a new direction. The rest is history…Team USA would qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics after winning the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship. I could go on and on about the history but you’re better off just reading the Wikipedia page for that.
A few guys on the 2008 squad played on the losing teams in 2004 and 2006 and so they have something to play for. How do you go from getting embarrassed by losing the Gold Medal game? This is definitely a film where the increased distance helps in its favor. Players and coaches have a time to reflect. Moreover, LeBron James gets in a money quote about playing for Coach K. Take it from this Kentucky fan: the hatred/loathing of anything Duke is strong!
It’s really fascinating to watch this documentary just over 14 years after they won Gold. When one thinks of the 2008 games, Michael Phelps is almost certainly the first person that comes to mind. The basketball win almost feels like it’s on the back-burner just because of how Phelps made himself a legend during those games. These players, throughout it all, were at the other events to show their support. In the weeks that would follow, our lives changed–the economic crash, President Obama’s election, etc.
The Last Dance‘s Jon Weinbach helms this documentary, which runs just over 90 minutes. There’s a lot of archival footage but a nice mixture of contemporary interviews, too. What is interesting in watching the archival footage is seeing how Kobe Bryant sets himself apart from teammates. There’s a moment in the film where everyone is clubbing until 4 or 5 AM in the morning. They get back to the hotel only to discover Kobe is getting ready to lift weights and practice. It’s this mindset that would be contagious and make its way through the rest of the team. Mind you, Kobe was also going after loose balls during practice, too! The other fascinating thing about the never-before-seen stuff is seeing how unfiltered Coach K is when it comes to losing.
I remember watching the NBA TV documentary about The Dream Team several years ago. What makes this documentary different is just how much more footage is available. Without the IOC providing video from the games, this wouldn’t be the same film. The amount of behind-the-scenes material available is probably enough to make this film a two-part documentary! Unfortunately, the shorter run time means that some players do not appear outside of archival footage. Regardless of the film’s flaws, the on-camera interviews (and Kobe’s archival interviews) add some extra insight to how this team came together and won Olympic Gold in 2008. Pau Gasol, who played for Spain in 2008, discusses the time that his Lakers teammate rammed him over in the first game. I forgot that this had happened!
One of the moments that brings tears to the eyes is how Team USA involves Doug Collins in the celebrations. Collins had played for the MNT that got robbed of a Gold Medal in 1972. It’s a loss that still stings 50 years later–Team USA players have forever rejected the Silver Medal but that’s another documentary altogether.
Unfortunately, There’s not enough of Tayshaun Prince in the documentary. When one looks at the archival and contemporary interviews, there still isn’t enough of the former Kentucky Wildcats star. Hell, he’s not even included in any of the present-day interviews. I don’t speak for Big Blue Nation but I know I’m probably not alone in wanting hear his thoughts about playing for the 2008 team and winning Olympic Gold.
What is the future of the Team USA Basketball MNT? It’s hard to say for certain. What I do know is that there were some inexcusable losses during the 2020 (2021) Summer Olympics and exhibition games. The team ended a 25-game winning streak with a loss to France. Does the team’s performance say something about the increase in quality from international opponents? Or does it say something worse about the quality of players who end up playing for the MNT? Time will tell as Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 await.
This documentary is the first of the Five Rings Films to stream on Netflix. With the demise of the Olympic Channel, one can only wonder where such Olympic documentaries will stream going forward.
Time may heal wounds but The Redeem Team captures the human side of sports in reliving the nerves and excitement on the road to redemption.
DIRECTOR: Jon Weinbach
FEATURING: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Mike Krzyzewski, Kobe Bryant, Jerry Colangelo, Chris Collins, Doug Collins, Mike D’Antoni, Pau Gasol, J.A. Adande, Bill Plaschke, Sam Smith
Netflix will release The Redeem Team on October 7, 2022. Grade: 4.5/5
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