Jason Kidd was lucky enough to play on two U.S. Olympic teams, and both times, he brought home the gold. His first trip to the Games in 2000 took him to Australia, while his return trip in 2008 sent him to China on a mission: To restore the United States’ good name on the international stage. Both trips were among the most amazing experiences of his life.
DOWN UNDER (2000)
Jason’s experiences at the 2000 Olympics, held in Sydney, Australia, rank among the fondest of his career, and representing the United States was one of the greatest experiences of his life.
One of the highlights, as he recounted to the Arizona Republic, was watching the American swim team – led by Gary Hall Jr. – rebound from a loss in the relays to dominate its Australian counterparts.
“The great thing about it was the way Gary led a U.S. comeback during the rest of the swimming. I found his parents, met them and congratulated them. Gary was an inspiration. He talked some trash early. But he wouldn’t be an American if he didn’t talk a little trash. Then he backed it up. That was great stuff.”
Inspired by his fellow Olympians, Jason’s effort on the basketball court was at its best. But as he and Team USA discovered, the competition from the rest of the world was far better than he expected.
“Everybody expects teams to be in awe of us. But that just is not the case anymore. The rest of the world is improving, and we have to be ready for that.”
In the waning seconds of the semifinals, Team USA found itself with an 84-83 lead over Lithuania. With 9.4 seconds remaining in the game, Jason was fouled. He hit one of two free-throws, and with just over five seconds remaining, Lithuania got the rebound, and a chance to tie – or possibly win.
It was not to be.
Jason’s defense on Lithuanian star Sarunas Jasikevicius was smothering. As recounted by the Associated Press:
Jasikevicius, closely guarded by Kidd, dribbled away almost all of the remaining 5.2 seconds trying to get free before attempting his shot from about 22 feet away.
”I made him turn, and he took a bad shot,” Kidd said.
When it missed, U.S. coach Rudy Tomjanovich pumped his fist, Carter pointed to the sky and the Americans celebrated at center court as if they had just won the game of their lives.
The U.S. would go on to defeat France, 106-94. For the Games, Jason amassed a formidable stat-line. As reported by USA Basketball:
As a team-appointed tri-captain of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, Kidd assisted the USA to an Olympic gold medal in Sydney, Australia, averaging 6.0 ppg., 5.3 rpg. and team highs of 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals a game. He shot 51.6 percent overall from the field and 50.0 percent (4-8 3pt FGs) from 3-point to help the USA team to a perfect 8-0 mark.
THE REDEEM TEAM (2008)
Eight years after winning his first gold medal, Jason returned to Team USA and the Olympic Games in 2008, and led the U.S. squad back to the summit of international basketball.
J-Kidd was added to the American team for his leadership abilities, experience, and all-around playmaking ability, and all of his skills were required to get USA Basketball back atop the medal stand in Beijing.
A team captain, Jason started every game at point guard. As documented by the Boston Globe, he kept the U.S. composed in the tensest, most pressure-packed moments of games.
“I just got to keep calming these guys down because everybody’s going to be on an emotional high,” said Kidd after a hard-fought 101-81 semifinal victory over 2004 Olympic champion Argentina. “We have to figure out how to keep our composure and our energy level at an even keel until game time.”
No. 5 and Team USA strolled through the preliminary round, tallying a 5-0 record that included victories over Greece and Spain — two teams touted as top competitors for the gold. In the prelims, Team USA outscored opponents by more than 30 points per game, but Jason was well aware it wouldn’t be that easy in the medal rounds:
“I think the biggest thing is when you look at the blowouts, the first Dream Team, they scared guys before they ever got to the floor. For us, the world’s gotten better, so it’s not about intimidating. It’s about playing the game the right way and that’s what we have done for the last five games. So, now we have to concentrate on Australia. We’ve got three games to the gold medal and now this is where it starts.”
After a sound 116-85 victory over Australia, Jason and Co. headed to a semifinal game with defending Olympic champion Argentina. With the game close in the second half, No. 5 took over, creating opportunities for teammates against Argentina’s tough zone defense.
Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski sung Jason’s praises to the media after the win:
“He’s the first guy I went to in the locker room as they were coming in, I said ‘that was by far you’re best game.’ He really was a great leader for us. What he was doing against the zone in moving people around and moving the ball, he played his best game. That third quarter, especially the start of the second half was critical for the win. And, I think Jason was the primary guy making that happen.”
With the 101-81 victory, Jason led America’s charge into the gold medal game and a rematch with Spain.
No. 5 started and was active throughout, working the point and the huddle, where he talked to teammates about strategy, showing confidence in them, and encouraging them to play their best. This was Jason’s role throughout the Games: team captain and leader, ever the facilitator, as he has always been throughout his storied career.
Team USA would end up closing out Spain, 118-107, in the final minutes. As the clock ticked down, ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan described the triumphant moments:
“With the final seconds ticking off, Jason Kidd and Coach K jumped into each other’s arms, embracing and spinning in a circle.”
No. 5 continued to lead his teammates from atop the podium even as the National Anthem played:
“Hands on hearts, guys, hands on hearts,” Kidd said.
UNDEFEATED AGAINST THE WORLD
It was the culmination of a perfect Olympic career for J-Kidd. His international resume remains untarnished at an astounding 56-0. And with that ended No. 5’s second and last Olympic experience. He laid any doubt of his plans to rest, after the game, as recounted by the Contra Costa Times:
“I’m undefeated,” Jason Kidd said. “I told them I can retire now from international ball.”
His second gold medal puts Jason among elite company; he is one of just 13 American player to win two golds. Asked which medal meant more to him, J-Kidd was caught in the moment:
“2000 was unbelievable, but this is the moment right now, and this is something I will cherish a long time.”