By: Mark Maloney
SEC Digital Network
LONDON — Anthony Davis finished the London Summer Olympic Games the same way he finished the NCAA championship game for Kentucky last April -- with a title, and with the ball in his hands.
Davis played a cameo role Sunday as Team USA defeated Spain 107-100 for the men’s basketball gold medal in North Greenwich Arena.
That he only entered the game with 37.6 seconds left, the outcome no longer in doubt, was of no consequence.
He was there to snare the rebound when Spain’s Sergio Llull missed a three-point try on the last shot of the game.
"Yeah, it was in my hands in the championship game in (New Orleans), too," Davis said. "I think I just have a thing for it, having the ball at the last minute. ‘C.P.’ (Chris Paul) ran to me quick and wanted the ball. ... I was going to throw it in the air. But, hey, we still won and I’m still happy to be here."
At 19, Davis was the youngest player on the team and the only one yet to play in the NBA.
In a span of five months, the 6-foot-10 man with the unibrow has taken his legacy into uncharted territory.
As a one-and-done freshman, Davis led Kentucky to the NCAA crown.
He was the consensus National Player of the Year.
The New Orleans Hornets made him the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
And now this, an Olympic gold medal.
"Probably No. 1," he said when asked where Olympic gold ranks in his dream season. "Because you’re representing your country. Everybody wants to play in the Olympics, but there’s only 12 spots on the team, so I really have to go out there and compete.
"For me to have a gold medal and play with superstars, I’d say it probably ranks far up there."
Kevin Durant led Team USA wit 30 points and nine rebounds. Lebron James had 19 points, seven boards and four assists. Kobe Bryant scored 17, Paul had 11 and Kevin Love just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Team USA led 59-58 at halftime and 83-82 through three quarters.
A 14-5 start to the fourth quarter pushed the lead to 10, and the closest Spain came from there was six points, 99-93, when Marc Gasol dunked with 2:25 left.
James answered with a jumper from the left wing, and Paul hit a shot-clock buzzer-beater in the final minute to make it 104-93.
"I think it was a big shot," James said of his bucket. "But there were a lot of big shots in our game, not just mine. There was a bunch of big plays offensively and defensively. I’m happy that I was able to be put in that position to come through for my teammates. I never like to let them down."
Pau Gasol topped Spain with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Juan-Carlos Navarro nailed four three-pointers and scored 21, while Marc Gasol netted 17 points.
The Americans have won 14 of 18 Olympic basketball golds, including two in a row and five of the last six.
Spain has three Olympic medals in men’s basketball, all silvers, and all when facing Team USA -- 1984, 2008 and 2012.
"It’s a bittersweet feeling," Pau Gasol said. "Obviously, there’s great pride and satisfaction from winning an Olympic medal, but we were close again against this team of excellent players. You have to have pretty much a perfect game to be able to beat them."
Earlier, Russia edged Argentina 81-77 in the bronze-medal contest.
Once the medals were awarded, Bryant shared some advice with Davis.
"He just told me it’s not going to last long," Davis said. "... I told him I was going to play in 2016 and he just started laughing."
Bryant, meanwhile, declared this his last Olympics: "This is it for me. The other guys are good to go."
Davis came into the final day of the Games averageing 4.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 8:34 per game.
From top player in the NCAA to bench-warmer in the Games was not a difficult transition, he said.
"No. .. I got better the last couple months with these guys," he said. "I think I learned a lot from watching these guys and how they play, how they approach the game every single night. ... Starting to think like them in games instead of like a rookie.
"I doubted myself the first couple days and I was still in awe that I was on the team with these guys. But after a while, you start to settle in and just start playing ball."
One season of Southeastern Conference play under Coach John Calipari set him up well for bigger stages, he said.
"The physicality of (the SEC). Tempo. Going up and down and all that, I think it really prepared me for it," Davis said. "And just being at Kentucky with Coach Cal, the way he coaches and his system, I think it really prepared me to play in the Olympic Games and the NBA."
And, just as happened in New Orleans, Davis was prepared to leave London with the first-place hardware.
"It’s like the national championship all over," he said. " ... (Calipari) told me to just go out there and have fun. Play hard. And ‘see you with the gold when you get back in September.’ "