My time at the 2008 Olympics, a dream come true
The Summer Olympics are here. I had the chance to go to Brazil and visit Rio de Janeiro for training camp a couple of years ago. While we were there, my wife and I had a beautiful experience at Christ the Redeemer at sunrise. Our hotel offered a private tour, and it was early—we had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning—but seeing the view from that point was unbelievable. We ate breakfast and took everything in before the day got too hot.
This year’s Olympics got me thinking and reminiscing about my own Olympic experience. It’s such a fond memory, participating in Beijing in 2008 and winning a gold medal. I had the opportunity to play with tremendously talented guys—some true basketball legends—and help get USA back to the top.
Beyond playing basketball, I really immersed myself in the whole Olympic experience. It is so much more than competing. It’s a place where athletes represent their respective countries and compete against other top athletes from all over the world. It’s a place where people’s dreams come true.
My favorite part was hanging out in the Village and talking to other athletes. It was interesting because I play basketball as a profession, but not everyone does that. Not everyone does archery or weight lifting or whatever event they’re competing in as a profession. I talked to so many people who were also police officers, firefighters, lawyers, doctors, mothers, fathers, construction workers, office workers—so many people from so many different walks of life. My time at the Olympics allowed me to connect with people of the world and discover those commonalities we all share.
Along with the conversations and connections, trading pins is a huge thing. Each athlete receives pins representing their country to trade with other athletes. The pins I collected—I need to find them in storage and look through them again—are from all over the world. I’d say the most unique or surprising pin I received was from Micronesia, a group of islands in the Pacific. I had never heard of Micronesia before then, but thanks to the Olympics, I met someone from there who was competing in swimming.
Participating in the Olympics was such a special time. It was really a life-changing time for me, and I’m very appreciative of that experience. Yes, I had the chance to go to Beijing and represent my country. But for me, it was also about personal growth. It was about taking in all the beauty and passion the USA has and seeing how we share that beauty and passion when the world is watching. It was about seeing firsthand how amazing Beijing is—the culture, the people, the history. And I got to play with LeBron, Kobe, Dwayne, Carmelo, great basketball minds like Tayshaun Prince and Jason Kidd. I got to play ball with my friends.
Now, this summer, watching the USA basketball team compete at a global level and seeing that look in their eyes, seeing that it’s so special to them—it brings me back. I know that feeling. Being a part of the Olympics was a dream come true for me. I watched the Summer Games every four years as a child. I watched the Dream Team and envisioned myself up on that podium winning a gold medal. So to do that—to step up on that podium and hear the national anthem and win a gold medal—was completely surreal. Today, I wish all the athletes well and I continue to hope that their own dreams come true in Rio and beyond.