Devin Booker Sparks USA Basketball to Olympic Gold Medal Game
SAITAMA, Japan – Three former Kentucky men’s basketball players – Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker and Keldon Johnson – will have a chance at Olympic gold on Friday in the Olympic finals vs. France.
Booker was a key part of a second-half turnaround to help USA Basketball defeat Australia 97-78 on Thursday in the semifinals of the Olympics at Saitama Super Arena in Japan.
After trailing by 15 points in the first half, Team USA used a 16-4 run just before halftime to close the deficit to three and rode the momentum into the second half to improve to 4-1 in the tournament and put the Americans in position for their fourth straight gold medal.
Booker was particularly strong in the second half and finished with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Eleven of his 20 points came in the decisive third quarter. Adebayo pitched in with three points and eight rebounds, and Johnson saw two minutes of action.
The Americans will face France (5-0) on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET in the gold medal game on Peacock. France bested Team USA 83-76 in the Olympics group stage.
Adebayo, Booker and Johnson are making their debuts for the 15-time Olympic gold medalist U.S. National Team. A Wildcat has been a part of the previous three U.S. gold medals with Tayshaun Prince in 2008, Anthony Davis in 2012 and DeMarcus Cousins in 2016. UK’s three representatives on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team are more than any other college.
It has not been an easy journey to the gold medal game for USA Basketball. In addition to losing to France in the group stage, the Americans also dropped a pair of exhibition games prior to leaving for Japan. Team USA has faced deficits in each of its last two games but has pulled away in the second half in both games.
USA Basketball has medaled in each of the 18 Olympics it has participated in, winning 15 gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals. That number is now guaranteed to reach 19 following the 2020 Olympic Games. Team USA owns a 142-6 overall win-loss record. Since NBA players began representing the U.S. in 1992, Team USA is 57-4 in what is now its eighth Olympics appearance with six gold medals.
Eleven Wildcats have won Olympic gold medals, but two UK players have not won gold on the same Olympic team since the Fabulous Five of Cliff Barker, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza, Wallace Jones and Kenny Rollins in 1948.
Booker, coming off the first NBA Finals appearance of his career, is averaging 10.8 points and 3.8 rebounds for Team USA, one of six players on a star-studded team in double-figure scoring. He is shooting 46.3% from the field and is 5 of 12 from behind the arc.
Adebayo is tallying 6.4 points and a team-best 5.6 rebounds per game as a starter. He also leads the team in steals with seven.
Johnson was a late addition to the roster after impressing on the USA Select Team. He has appeared in four of five games.
Just a week before the Olympics run, Booker led the Phoenix Suns to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993. A two-time NBA All-Star and one of the game’s best scorers since debuting in the 2015-16 season, Booker guided Phoenix to a 51-21 record in the regular season and the second seed in the difficult Western Conference. He averaged 25.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in the regular season. It was the fourth straight year he has averaged at least 24.0 points per game. In the NBA Playoffs, he averaged 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, including a 40-point triple-double in game one of the NBA Western Conference finals.
Booker was named the NBA Western Conference Player of the Month in February and won NBA Western Conference Player of the Week three times in 2020-21. He also was awarded the 2021 NBA Cares Community Assist Award for his continued commitment to support youth and families throughout the greater Phoenix area.
Booker is nearing 10,000 career points. Just 24 years old, his current point total is the seventh most ever by a player before turning 25.
Booker was the Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year during UK’s magical 2014-15 season. He averaged 10.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game, while also sinking 58 3-pointers. Booker won four straight SEC Freshman of the Week honors and earned a league-high five overall awards. He was drafted 13th overall by the Suns in 2015. With Booker playing an instrumental role, the Wildcats went 38-1 in his lone season, winning the first 38 games before falling in the Final Four. The 38 victories are tied for the most in NCAA history.
Adebayo, a 2020 NBA All-Star, led the Miami Heat back to the playoffs for a second consecutive season after appearing in the 2020 NBA Finals.
After helping anchor a defense this season that allowed just 10.4 fast-break points and only 41.3 points in the paint per game, both the lowest in the NBA, Adebayo finished fourth in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team for a second straight year.
Adebayo was more than just a defensive stopper for the Heat. In his fourth season in the NBA, Adebayo, averaged 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 57% from the field. He led the Heat in blocks (66), offensive rebounds (142), defensive rebounds (431) and total rebounds (573) while finishing second in steals (75).
Adebayo was a key part of the 2017 Elite Eight and SEC championship team at Kentucky. In his lone season at UK, he averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 rebounds with eight double-doubles. Adebayo was tabbed to the All-SEC Second Team by both the media and the league’s coaches. He was also an All-SEC Freshman Team selection and a member of the SEC All-Tournament Team after helping lead UK to the crown. He was selected 14th overall by the Heat in 2017.
After biding his time in San Antonio in his rookie season, Johnson has emerged as one of the faces of the proud San Antonio franchise. He averaged 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last season and became the first Spur with at least 20 points and at least 20 rebounds in the same game since Tim Duncan in 2013.
Johnson became the third-youngest and fifth-fastest Spur to reach 1,000 career points. He also made the Rising Stars Challenge game this past season.
Johnson was named the 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year during his lone season at Kentucky and made the All-SEC Second Team. He played a key part on the 2019 Elite Eight Team, averaging 13.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. The Spurs selected Johnson with the 29th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
When the 2020-21 season began, a staggering 31 players were on NBA opening-day rosters (including two-way and inactive lists) played and finished their college basketball careers at Kentucky. Underscoring the fact that no other school in the country can match UK’s ability to develop players and put them in the NBA, UK’s 31 players were once again the most of any college basketball program, beating the next-closest school (Duke with 26) by five players.
Kentucky has enjoyed unprecedented success at putting players in the NBA under John Calipari. In the 12 previous seasons of the Calipari era, 43 players have been selected in the NBA Draft, more than any other school. Included in the recent run are 32 first-round picks, three No. 1 overall selections (Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and John Wall) and 21 lottery selections.
Calipari’s players have entered the league NBA-ready. His players have garnered 23 All-Star selections, with Davis winning the game’s MVP honor in 2017. Derrick Rose was named NBA MVP in 2011. Six of his players have been tabbed All-NBA, three have been named NBA Rookie of the Year, and 15 players from Calipari’s first 11 teams at Kentucky have made the NBA All-Rookie teams.
Using figures compiled by basketball-reference.com and spotrac.com, Calipari-coached players only (which includes Rose but not Rajon Rondo) have amassed more than $3 billion in career NBA contracts.
For the latest on the Kentucky men’s basketball team, follow @KentuckyMBB on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, and on the web at UKathletics.com.