The Boomers created history at Tokyo 2020 in winning Australia’s first men’s basketball medal, and Andrew Gaze was there for every moment of an Olympics to savour.
The Australian men’s basketball team did what those before them were unable to achieve when they took home bronze in Tokyo.
And as the Boomers defeated Slovenia in the Bronze Medal match, the former five-time Olympian Gaze watched on with pride.
“I think in particular for the entire basketball community, it was the fulfilment of a long long-term goal,” Gaze told The Press Box podcast.
“Obviously, everyone was very proud of our team, and perhaps those who don’t follow basketball fully appreciate and recognize when you win a medal at the Olympic Games, it’s something special.
“But for those within the basketball community – it had that extra meaning, particularly for those of generations gone by, who perhaps didn’t have the same resources, who had this goal that realistically, was going to take decades to fulfil.
“To finally see it come to fruition, I think means a lot. And for me, growing up in a family that was very much a part of the development of the game, primarily because of my dad, but also his brothers and his mum had various roles within the sport.
“It took on a bit more of significance and one of the reasons I got so emotional, was because I understand a lot of the other things that go into building an environment here in Australia that came up with a result like this – the blood, sweat, and tears that go into constructing facilities, developing competitions, how we can educate everyone on what basketball is about.
“Those types of things are labour-intensive and take long long times to have an impact. In particular, for those that are still around, that had that goal and ambition a long time ago, to finally see it get there means a little bit extra.”
What does this mean for the future?
With a medal at the Olympic Games, the boys and girls of Australia have a new group of heroes to be inspired by and Gaze discussed the impact the Boomers win and the form of the Opals will have on the next generation.
“We’ve been really fortunate with basketball because the Opals have had enormous success at the Olympic Games. We’ve seen through their success the impact it can have on that bottom of the pyramid,” he said.
“You only get to those types of elite-level performances when you’ve got a really strong, really fundamentally sound base to the sporting pyramid.
“And very rarely, I can’t think of too many, where you just get a random situation where a sport can just come along and have elite level success, without having that pyramid in place.
“I think what it does, is the game will inspire youngsters to pick up the game, to look at the game, to have something really tangible to look at to say, ‘if you are dedicated to it if you do have a passion for it, then there is a pathway within Australia that can deliver this type of success at the highest level.
“I think that it does tremendous benefits for growing the game. And whether it’s a local council, umming and ahhing about building a new facility, or whether it’s a mum or a dad thinking ‘what could the pathway be for my son or my daughter,’ I think it provides a level of inspiration that can only be healthy for the game.”
More Tokyo 2020 News
The talent on display for the Boomers’ side will be critical if it is to roll on to Paris in 2024 and beyond.
Gaze spoke about whether he thinks our success in Tokyo will translate into more medals down the line.
“I think so, I think if you go back over the last, five or six Olympic Games, and even before that, when I was fortunate enough to be involved, we’ve been very very close for a long period of time,” he said.
“And some would suggest, that if it weren’t for a bit of bad luck along the way we would have already had this moment.
“You get to that point sometimes where you think there’s some sort of curse on you [laughs] because you just can’t get over the hump.
“But we’ve been at the pointy end for a long period of time, and when you look at our players that are competing in Australia in the NBL, in the NBA, over in Europe- we’ve got Australian players playing at the highest level- and they’re not just playing but they are doing really really well.
“There’s no reason to think why we can’t continue to put ourselves in a position where we are competing for medals. And realistically as it was in Tokyo, realistically be thinking of Gold medals.
“And when we’re 15 points up halfway through the second quarter against the United States, there’s fairly good evidence to say we’re not far off it.”
Patty amongst the greats?
The Boomers were led fantastically by Patty Mills, who, after being the flagbearer for Australia alongside Cate Campbell, dropped 42 points to lead them to victory in the bronze medal match.
Gaze spoke about where Mills ranks among the greats of Aussie Basketball after his Olympics performance.
“I don’t necessarily get too caught up in rating anyone, I just appreciate them for what they’ve been able to do. And certainly, Patty has been extraordinary,” he said.
“Not just what he does on the floor, what he has been able to do off the floor, the way he represents us when playing in the NBA, is nothing short of fantastic.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve, he has a very strong commitment to making sure indigenous causes are front and centre to everything he does, but not at the exclusion of the rest of the country.
“I think he handles himself and contributes in so many different ways- certainly with his performances for Australia.
“In London  I think he was the leading scorer for the tournament, [he was], the second-leading scorer for the tournament in Rio, and then drops 42 in what has become one of the most important games in Australian basketball history- he’s had an unbelievable impact.
“And his performance- also with the culture of the team, you see the way in which he embraces all the team, brings them all together, he’s done a lot of things that some people may not even be aware of.
“[I’ve] been very proud of the way he’s been able to do it, and he’s certainly one of the all-time greats of Australian Basketball.”
Gaze, like the rest of us, will be hoping that this is only the beginning of a golden run for the Boomers.
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