Typically, the summer sport’s world is dominated by baseball, pre-season football talk, and major tennis and golf outings, leaving hoopheads longing for something to watch. But this year (with the help of Nike and the ESPN family of networks), we were given the opportunity to see something great.

The Game in one of its purest forms. Guys playing not for the money, but for pride, driven by their passion for the game.

But as Team USA prepared for the FIBA World Championships, the hate was about as heavy as Shawn Kemp. The “B Team,” some called them. Granted, these weren’t the creamiest of the crop, but the “B Team”? Really?

Personally, watching them win left me a proud American, telling myself, “I Love This Game.” Seeing them play since early August, we were able to witness the entire ride. We got to watch them grow up and come together as a team, the final game being the fulfilling culmination of it all.

When they lost in ‘02 (which was made up of “second-tier” guys just like the current team) and ‘06, Americans were disgraced. Astonished. Ready to banish George Karl, Paul Pierce and the like from the country, forget the League. But the team that finally righted the ship, bringing home World Championship gold for the first time since 1994, hasn’t been met with the same enthusiasm.

Given all the hate, I think it’s time to show some love:

1. First and foremost, shout out to Kevin Durant. From day one, it was clear: He had to be the guy. Coach K had to ask him to be more selfish. With all the pressure on him, he stepped up. Big time. And when it counted most, is when he was at his best. Dropping 33, 38 and 28 in the final three games, setting all kinds of records for Americans in international play. Even when Team USA’s offense, or lack thereof, seemed to come to a standstill, Durant carried them singlehandedly, and was the lone Team USA member to average double figures, putting up just under 23 points per game.

One of my personal favorites thus far. See the full story over at SLAM.