(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Paul George has come full circle _ and he wants more.
The Indiana Pacers All-Star was wearing the blue USA uniform in August 2014 when he suffered a gruesome injury on national television, snapping his right leg during an exhibition scrimmage. Now two years later, once again wearing all blue with USA across his chest, George planted that same leg on the floor and stepped on to the Olympic podium, arms interlocked with his American teammates, to receive a gold medal.
Team USA rolled past Serbia 96-66 Sunday in the Olympic final to bring closure to one of the worst chapters of George’s life.
“Me and Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) actually had a moment before this game,” George said. “He was one of the first people to visit me in the hospital. He just told me, this is what I’ve been texting you about all season. This is what I’ve been telling you when you were in the hospital bed. This day is going to come. And here it is. Gold medalists.”
(AP Photo/John Locher)
The injury was so horrific there were concerns that the 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward would never be the same, he would lose some of his quickness, agility, explosiveness and athleticism.
George worked to get back, and the work paid off _ in gold.
“This is where the incident happened,” George said. “With this group and with Team USA. It meant everything. Again, to just finalize this whole story. Put it to rest. I know I’m officially back.”
George, arguably, was the best all-around player for the Americans and certainly the best defender. He took it upon himself to take Serbia’s best player, Milos Teodosic, out of the game.
Looks of relief and satisfaction were all over his face following the medal ceremony.
“It’s closing this chapter,” George said. “This is the ending piece to the whole rehab story.”
But maybe not to his Olympic story.
The construction of Team USA will look different in four years at the Tokyo Games. Krzyzewski will be gone. Carmelo Anthony said he’s done. LeBron James has expressed interest in returning and George will only be 30 years old.
“Why not?” George smirked when talking of playing in four years. “Why not?”