(LR) Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray, Jackie Young and Stefanie Dolson on the podium after winning gold in women’s 3×3 basketball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo.
TOKYO – Put their names in the history books.
In 3×3 basketball debut at the Olympics, Team USA made history by beating the Russian Olympic Committee, 18-15, in the gold medal match.
Armed with WNBA stars Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces) and Jackie Young (Las Vegas Aces) beat Russia at Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo on Wednesday night.
âIt’s amazing,â Dolson said. “Basketball has a big presence in the United States and to pull that off and win gold is amazing.”
âA gold medal (Olympic) is like the best level of my career,â said Gray. “I think the only way to beat that is to win another gold medal. I don’t think any other achievement in my career can surpass that. The gold medal is at the very top.”
The world’s No. 1 ranked urban team sport is 3×3 basketball, and it is now part of the Olympic program.
In addition to skateboarding, surfing and rock climbing, 3×3 was added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in an effort to engage the younger generation. With a 12 second stopwatch and a playing time of just 10 minutes, the 3×3 is fast and physical.
âThis group worked so hard and spent a lot of time learning this game,â Plum said. âThis game is not easyâ¦ and I just think it’s a great sport for its Olympic debut and we’re proud to take home gold.â
But the road to the gold medal game was not easy for the American team. Before Tuesday, the United States were unbeaten in the pool.
The United States fell to Japan on Tuesday, 20-18, but the loss still qualified them for Wednesday’s semi-final game against France with a 6-1 record, good for the first place.
In a fiercely contested semi-final match against the French – the United States emerged victorious with an 18-16 victory.
But France did not fall without a fight. Their opponents were aggressive and physical, but the United States had too much on the line to let another loss and a gold medal slip through their fingers.
âWe had shots that didn’t come in, free throws that we missed,â Dolson said.
Gray and Plum were the team’s leading scorers in the semi-finals – both with six points. Dolson added five points and eight rebounds.
Just hours after their victory over France, the US team were back in action, this time for gold.
When the women entered the field, the atmosphere was electric – literally. As distant lightning lit up the sky, you could feel the excitement in the air.
That was it. Those last 10 minutes would make the difference between gold and silver.
Dolson, or Big Mama Stef as many like to call him, led the team with seven points, including 4 of 6 from the free throw line and nine rebounds. The United States team converted eight of 11 free throws which ended up putting the team in an ideal position to win gold. The US team beat Russia 18-15.
âWinning a gold medal for our country has been the goal we’ve been striving to accomplish since we were kids,â said Dolson. âI am proud of this team and proud to be part of this group of girls. I’m glad we fought and managed to get the gold.
For Plum, this moment meant something a little more.
âI didn’t think I would be here,â Plum said.
After tearing his Achilles in June 2020, Plum was sure his dreams of winning Olympic gold were over. But with the Games delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she has had time to recover and come back to the field in full force.
âI fought to go back and I really feel grateful and blessed to have this opportunity,â Plum said. âUSA Basketball, they could have let me down. They could have taken someone else, and they didn’t and I’m really, really grateful.
While this is USA Basketball’s first gold medal at the Tokyo Games, it will hopefully not be the last.
The men’s and women’s 5×5 teams will continue their bid for gold until the end of the Olympics. The United States women’s team is aiming for history as they aim for their seventh straight gold medal.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 for the medal table, results and competition schedule.