Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker are trying to silence doubters near and far.
The Boston Celtics players told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears doubts over the U.S. men’s national basketball team’s talent is motivating the group ahead of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Naysayers use the withdrawals of James Harden, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and other NBA superstars from Team USA as reasons to withhold excitement over, and in some cases support for, the national team’s quest for a third-straight World Cup triumph and sixth consecutive international title.
Tatum, Walker and other U.S. players currently are in Australia for Thursday’s and Saturday’s World Cup tune-up games against the Boomers but they’re aware of what Team USA’s doubters are saying back home.
“It’s like they picked us up off the street,” Tatum said. “… We’re pretty good at what we do. It’s added a chip on our shoulder, and we’re going to take it with us.
Walker said Team USA is adopting the “underdog” tag.
“We are embracing it as much as we can,” he said. “It’s adding fuel to the fire. A lot of us, it’s where we come from. We come from being underdogs, most of us. We’re hungry.”
Although Walker previously has stated how happy he is to play alongside young, hungry teammates, this apparently is the first time Tatum has addressed Team USA’s star-power deficit publicly. The conviction with which Tatum discusses perceptions about Team USA suggests international rivals might pay the price for the beliefs of domestic critics.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images