Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 7/5/12
When the final buzzer sounded in Beijing in 2008 and LeBron James had won an Olympic gold medal, he sought out one person. It wasn't a family member. It wasn't a teammate. It was someone James hadn't gotten to know really well until the month before. Prior to going to the Olympics, Team USA had held training camp in Las Vegas. Brought in to address the team was Doug Collins, the guard who had made two free throws with three seconds left that had apparently given the Americans a one-point win over the Soviet Union in the 1972 Olympic gold-medal game. But the Soviets in a controversy-marred ending in which they had three chances to win eventually threw a length-of-the-court pass for a layup that won the game 51-50. James, then with Cleveland and now with Miami, had been moved by Collins' speech about the pride he felt in being an Olympian despite the pain he went through. So he headed directly for Collins, who was an NBC analyst at the 2008 Games and is now Philadelphia's coach, after the 118-107 win over Spain for the gold. "When we were able to win that gold-medal game against Spain, he was the first person I looked for," James said. "He was sitting across from our bench, and I went over and gave him a big hug to say, it was basically, 'This was for you as well."' Collins was touched, and shed some tears. He has a keepsake of the moment in his 76ers office. "I got a picture of LeBron jumping over the little barricade separating us, and he basically ran over and gave me a hug and said, 'We feel like you're a big part of that. The talk you gave us in Vegas was very important to us,"' said Collins, whose son Chris Collins was a 2008 Olympic assistant under coach Mike Krzyzewski and will continue in that role in London. "Then the guys brought me out on the floor and put a gold medal around my neck, and they all took a picture with me. So I have that in my office as well." Four years after being inspired by Collins and two weeks after leading the Heat to the NBA title, James will report to Las Vegas on Thursday for another Olympic training camp. The camp will run Friday through July 12 as the Americans prepare to win another gold. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told FOX Sports Florida on Monday that James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love all are assured of Olympic spots when the 12-man team is announced at 7 p.m. EDT Saturday in a selection show televised by NBA TV. Sessions before then will determine which of the remaining six players (Blake Griffin, James Harden, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala and Anthony Davis) will land the final three spots. Although Davis might not be able to do much in workouts because of a sprained ankle, Colangelo said he's still under consideration for the team. It will mark the third Olympic appearance for James, whose Americans settled for a bronze medal during a disastrous Olympics in Athens in 2004. That experience and hearing Collins talk about the ill-fated 1972 Games have made James truly appreciate being a gold medalist. "We knew what Doug Collins was going through," said James, whose relationship with Collins had been more of the casual variety until the two bonded four years ago in Las Vegas. "That stuck with him for a long time. I mean, years and years, decades. That loss has stuck with him. So he came in and talked to us and he gave us a speech about what it means to be part of the USA team and what it means to represent your country, and what you are doing this for and the commitment that you're giving." During Collins' visit, Krzyzewski showed his team footage of the game 40 years ago in Munich. But so as not to emphasize too much the tragic way it ended, Collins said the film was stopped after he made the free throws. Of course, everybody on Team USA knew how it turned out. The 1972 Olympians still have refused to accept their silver medals, which sit in a vault at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Switzerland. "Mike Bantom was with me, and I talked about how he was my teammate," Collins said of a forward from the 1972 team who now works with the NBA and also was with Team USA four years ago in Las Vegas. "But (1972 Olympians) are bonded together through pain, through the feeling that game was sort of taken away from us. . . . I talked about the experience (the 2008 Olympians) were about to go through, the feeling they were going to have representing the United States. I told them they could bond themselves together forever as teammates with a gold medal." On Team USA's way to fulfilling that, James did what he could to thank Collins for his words of wisdom. "Before every jump ball to start the game, LeBron would always look over and point to me, and the guys would make eye contact with me," Collins said. "I'm a big fan of LeBron. I have great admiration for him." Collins, who took over at Philadelphia in 2010 after not having coached for seven years, will see James in London. Collins again will be an analyst for NBC, the fourth straight Olympics he's served in that role. When the Americans begin their title defense July 29 against France, don't be surprised if James is again looking Collins' way. "It's always a brotherhood," James said about how he considers Collins a part of Team USA. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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