25 July, 2021
07 August
5 Patty Mills (AUS)
to read

'Skeletons jumping around, drinking beers, dancing and crying' - Aussie greats celebrate long-awaited bronze

SYDNEY (Australia) - Some called Australia's Bronze Medal Game triumph over Slovenia a game for the ages. It certainly was for everyone Down Under.

It was a long-awaited and desperately needed moment for all Boomers, including those from the past, those players that gave everything for the green and gold but never had the satisfaction of stepping onto the podium at the Olympics or the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Australia had been so close on multiple occasions.

Former players like Shane Heal certainly lived and died on every possession of the battle for bronze this year. He even tweeted a video message about the game's importance beforehand.

Heal, who had a famous on-court confrontation with USA star Charles Barkley at the 1996 Atlanta Games, twice suffered Olympic Bronze Medal Game agony in defeats to Lithuania, 80-74 in 1996 and again 89-71 four years later in Sydney.

One of his teammates in those Australia teams, FIBA Hall of Famer Andrew Gaze, is a popular basketball analyst in Australia. Gaze, a five-time Olympian who carried the flag at the Opening Ceremony for the 2000 Sydney Games, commentated on the game from the studio.

"You don't have to win a medal to have a beautiful journey," he said on national TV. "It's about what we want to stand for in representing Australia, and representing this sport. I think of those that have been along for the journey that have their DNA on this."

Gaze stirred the embers a little more and teared up as Australia ended their Bronze Medal Game hoodoo. 

"There's so many that you look back on that toiled, when you don't get a cent for playing the game, when you're building stadiums, when you're building a sport and trying to generate it," he said.

Former Boomers star Chris Anstey, a member of the 2000 team that fell to Lithuania, couldn't resist tweeting a video of another former Boomer, Mark Worthington, showing to what lengths he was willing to go to share in the big moment of his national team.

Gaze (10), Heal (11), Anstey (9) and Luc Longley (13) were Boomers that finished fourth at the 2000 Olympics

'Wortho', a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, is a coach and had a game at the same time as the Boomers. His NBL1 team, South West Slammers, were in action against Joondalup.

Worthington is seen in the video shared by Anstey calling timeouts so he and his players could watch the end of the Bronze Medal Game.

Another Aussie legend that had not only represented the Boomers with pride as a player and endured Bronze Medal Game heartbreak in 2000, Luc Longley, felt the sting of disappointment twice in the past five years as a member of the coaching staff headed by Andrej Lemanis. Those Boomers teams fell in the final seconds to Spain at the Rio Games and then lost to France at the World Cup in China.

Longley watched the game from home and then went on the popular Pick and Roll podcast to share his joy.

"I've got to say there are a lot of skeletons in my closet jumping around, drinking beers and punching each other, and dancing and crying, I don't know which one to listen to," Longley said.

"I've got so many fourths leading up to this, I got so emotional watching the game. As the clock ticked down and the game became obvious, and watching Slovenia fall apart, that's a culmination for me."