LONDON — This was no Dream. This was reality. The gold medal was in doubt for the U.S. men's basketball team.
The Americans led Spain by one point after three quarters in a back-and-forth game that almost anyone would hope for in an Olympic final.
Especially, it turns out, the U.S. players. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We didn't want it easy," LeBron James said. "A lot of teams have won gold easy. We didn't want it that way. We're a competitive team, and we love when it gets tight. That's when our will and determination kind of shows. It was the same way in '08."
Same result, too.
The Americans defended their title Sunday by fighting off another huge challenge from Spain, pulling away in the final minutes for a 107-100 victory and their second straight Olympic championship.
James capped one of basketball's most brilliant individual years with a monster dunk and a huge 3-pointer in the final 2:50 that finally ended a Spanish threat few expected after the Americans had been so dominant for so long in London.
Yet four years after beating Spain 118-107 in a classic, the United States found itself in another tight one, unable to ever really slow the Spanish until the closing minutes.
Kevin Durant scored 30 and James had 19 on a day he joined Jordan as the only players to win the NBA title, regular-season MVP, NBA Finals MVP and Olympic gold in the same year.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has said he is retiring as national team coach after restoring the Americans to their place atop the world basketball, emptied his bench in the final minute.
When the final horn sounded, Krzyzewski locked James in a tight embrace as Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA played over the loudspeakers.
For Kobe Bryant, 34 next week, it was his last Olympic moment. "This is it for me," said Bryant, who scored 17 and has a second gold medal to go with his five NBA titles. "The other guys are good to go."
James, Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams also join a list of 13 Americans who have won multiple basketball golds.
The Lakers' Pau Gasol scored 24 for Spain.
"I am disappointed, but on the other side, I'm very proud how of the we competed, how we played," Gasol said. "It's disappointing. … We were right there pretty much the entire game. We let them get away in the fourth, and we couldn't get back."