Over 200 countries have participated in the Summer Olympic Games this year, most of them never expecting to win any medals. What draws them to this event? A sense of community, an appreciation of teamwork, an enthusiasm for excellence and a love of athletic competition. As the 2008 Games draw to a close in China, athletes from around the world have pursued their personal goals within these universal values.

The American Men’s Basketball Team in Beijing personifies all of these Olympic ideals. Labeled the “Redeem Team,” it is comprised of individual stars of the NBA, some MVP’s, each making millions of in their day jobs during the regular season. On different teams in the U.S., they compete against each other, often “talking trash,” and are used to being idolized in their home courts. Yet they agreed two years ago to practice together as a team with Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K, legendary coach of the Duke Blue Devils, told the players he would allow them on the national team only if they agreed to comport themselves with dignity as they represented the U.S. in competition. They were to redeem the tarnished image of U.S. basketball teams that had behaved arrogantly in the past.

And they have done just that. Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and other star NBA players have come to the different events to sit in the stands and cheer on other Olympic athletes. They stop to give autographs to the fans. On the court at the Olympics, they work together as a team, letting each of their teammates shine. No one hogs the ball and they choose to make the extra pass before a shot. Demonstrating respect for their opponents, they play a tough, swarming defense. Striving to win the gold in the final game, they have already won gold in the hearts of the fans and created a sparkling image for themselves and U.S. basketball.

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