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Team USA becoming favorites—on and off the floor

**Here is a recent article that I came across that goes into how popular USA Basketball has become, and also shines some light on how Yao Ming helped bridge the gap between USA and China….well in terms of basketball….but hey, it’s a start.**

The U.S. is becoming the home team.

That was apparent on Sunday night, when the U.S. drew huge ovations even as it schooled Yao Ming and his less-talented teammates in a 101-70 rout of China. Off the court, the Americans have been mobbed by autograph seekers everywhere they go.

“Sometimes we think we’re bigger in China than we are in the United States,” U.S. guard Chris Paul said.

Four years after being scorned in Athens, Team USA is bent on shedding the ugly American image, and the Chinese are buying it. A combination of the NBA’s popularity here and the Americans’ star power have fostered warm feelings among the players and the fans.

Call it slam dunk diplomacy.

“We’re just perceived different now,” said Dwyane Wade, a member of the 2004 Olympic bronze medal squad. “In Athens, we weren’t a favorite at all.”

It would be easy to blame former coach Larry Brown and the players on the 2004 team—Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson and company—for the Americans’ poor image in Athens. [read more]

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