Mikal Bridges Reaches Pinnacle of Basketball Career with Team USA Tour

“From Championships to International Glory: Mikal Bridges’ Team USA Tour Shines as the Apex of His Illustrious Basketball Career”

In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the Team USA hotel stands a mere stone’s throw away from the inviting Persian Gulf. The gulf’s waters mimic a soothing bath, radiating a vivid blue that’s almost overwhelming to gaze upon due to the intense sunbeams bouncing off it, complemented by the expanse of pale white sand.

The locale boasts a plethora of swimming pools and beachside bars, adorned with informative placards on the walls that categorize safety levels attributed to each pool, the beachfront, the ocean, and the bars themselves — all in response to the prevailing sweltering climate. This climate is a fusion, not entirely akin to the arid “dry” heat found in Las Vegas nor the stifling humidity characteristic of New Orleans, but rather a harmonious blend of the two.

The resort’s interior boasts elegant marble flooring, while the accommodations feature balconies that offer breathtaking views of the glistening azure waters. A gentle breeze wafts in from the sea, lending a refreshing touch to the balconies, though its cooling effect is somewhat diminished along the shoreline.

This serves as the dwelling, dining, and relaxation abode for the American 12 in the closing week of their preparations before embarking on their journey to Manila for the men’s FIBA World Cup. The Abu Dhabi skyline lies in the distance, faintly visible through the haze that lingered over the city on Tuesday.

Prior to their practice sessions, the Team USA coaching staff shared images illustrating Abu Dhabi’s transformation from 2005 to the present, emphasizing the remarkable opulence that has flourished in the eastern Arabian desert in under two decades.

Their practice sessions are held this week at New York University’s satellite campus, within a sprawling and immaculate gymnasium adorned with banners celebrating championships in various sports hanging from the rafters.

Even for someone like Mikal Bridges, part of the Brooklyn Nets and Team USA’s starting five, whose basketball journey has been charmed over his 26 years, the hotel’s lavish surroundings, the NYU gymnasium, and the broader USA Basketball experience are awe-inspiring to the point of being overwhelming.

“I often find myself needing to pause and truly grasp the moment,” shared Bridges, his perspiration glistening as Team USA concluded their initial practice in Abu Dhabi. “I tend to be so caught up in constant motion, always moving on to the next thing. But that’s a lesson I learned after leaving college – the art of cherishing a moment and immersing oneself in it.

“It’s an experience beyond words, being here, donning these colors, and having ‘USA’ proudly emblazoned across the chest,” Bridges continued. “When Steve Kerr first approached me about joining the team, I was in Phoenix at the time. I vividly recall receiving that call, and it felt almost surreal. Then, when I officially received the invitation from Grant Hill to be part of the team, it was like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’”

On Sunday night, it was Bridges who eloquently conveyed the experience of facing Spain on their home turf, surrounded by 11,000 fervent Spanish fans who passionately cheered for their team while fervently opposing the U.S. The endeavor to withstand this fervor, to rise above it, and ultimately emerge victorious – as the Americans did, clinching a 10-point win – was a testament to their resilience. And in the aftermath, the significance of savoring the accomplishment was not lost on him. Bridges articulated, “This is precisely the kind of scenario you envision in your dreams.” He went on to express, “I’m genuinely thrilled to be a part of this, grateful for the journey I’m navigating through.”

Pause to reflect on the series of events that have unfolded in Bridges’ life over the past several years, and then consider the words he employs to portray his current experience as a member of Team USA.

Bridges achieved not just one, but two national championships during his time at Villanova.

In 2021, he ventured to the NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns, where they pushed the Milwaukee Bucks to a six-game series and subsequently secured a four-year, $91 million contract extension during the previous summer.

In February, he was part of a trade to the Nets (alongside his fellow Team USA teammate, Cam Johnson) involving none other than one of the basketball greats, Kevin Durant.

Out of all the milestones listed above, Bridges articulated that his ongoing journey with Team USA – this six-week quest that could culminate in a World Cup victory – is shaping up to be the pinnacle of his basketball achievements.

“Sealing a championship for your college is an incredible feeling,” Bridges shared as he delved into the comparison. “Winning an NBA championship for your city is equally remarkable – even though I personally didn’t clinch it. However, representing your country takes it to an entirely different level. The challenge of uniting a group of individuals who might be unfamiliar with each other and then striving for a title within just six or seven weeks… it’s truly something amazing. That’s why I hold such affection for it.”

Bridges, of course, finds himself surrounded by players he knows more than intimately on Team USA. Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart were fellow champions at Villanova. Playing alongside them feels “as natural as breathing” after sharing the court daily for three years.

In this aspect, he notes that this segment of Team USA – a quarter of the roster – mirrors some of the other robust national teams participating in the World Cup, where the majority of players are accustomed to collaborating on the same side.

Then there are Bridges and Johnson, close friends during their tenure with the Suns before their transition to the Nets in exchange for Durant. Bridges explained, “While we enjoyed our time in Phoenix, it was a period of adversity. Overcoming adversity is an inevitable part of life, and I believe it propelled both Cam and me forward in our careers. Perhaps at a pace slightly swifter than we had anticipated.”

Now that he’s immersed in the experience, Bridges recognizes that the challenges he has encountered and the triumphs he has celebrated at Villanova and in the NBA have effectively equipped him for this juncture. Despite his familiarity with four of his Team USA teammates, he finds himself in crucial moments on the court alongside players like Anthony Edwards, Brandon Ingram, Jaren Jackson Jr., Tyrese Haliburton, or Austin Reaves. These are young men he merely crossed paths with in passing, having competed against them in the NBA.

In order to succeed, they must cultivate a level of trust that enables them to navigate situations akin to the one they faced against Spain on Sunday. A nine-point halftime lead dissipated in the third quarter, and the team had to rally and endure. This skill is vital in a World Cup environment, where games are more condensed and the setting deviates from the familiar for every member of Team USA.

Drawing from his time playing for Coach Jay Wright at Villanova, Bridges emphasizes the significance of attitude. He states, “Attitude is the cornerstone of the program,” echoing how this philosophy transcends basketball and mirrors life. Transitioning to Team USA and competing against Spain, he recounts the moments when Spain mounted a comeback amidst the roar of their enthusiastic crowd. It prompts him to consider the essential question: How will you respond when the going gets tough?

He reflects on the distinguishing factor that sets exceptional teams apart from the rest – how they confront and conquer adversity. Bridges attributes his preparedness for these situations to his time at Nova, where he grew accustomed to such tests. He recalls being on the court in Spain, shouting, “We thrive in moments like these.” This, he insists, is what he refers to when he expresses his joy in traversing this path.

And of course, there’s the vantage point from his hotel balcony, providing a unique perspective that complements his journey.

What experiences has Mikal Bridges had in his basketball career leading up to his time with Team USA?

Mikal Bridges won two national championships at Villanova, reached the NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns in 2021, signed a significant contract extension, and was involved in a trade to the Brooklyn Nets.

How does Mikal Bridges describe his current journey with Team USA compared to his previous basketball achievements?

Mikal Bridges states that while winning championships in college and the NBA was remarkable, playing for his country with Team USA is on a whole different level of significance for him.

What does Bridges emphasize about handling adversity and tough moments in basketball?

Mikal Bridges underscores the importance of attitude and resilience, drawing from his experiences at Villanova and noting that how teams deal with adversity often distinguishes good teams from great ones.

Who are some of the players Mikal Bridges mentions as being part of Team USA and facing challenges together?

Bridges mentions playing with Anthony Edwards, Brandon Ingram, Jaren Jackson Jr., Tyrese Haliburton, and Austin Reaves on Team USA, despite having known them mostly from playing against them in the NBA.

How does Mikal Bridges convey his appreciation for the unique opportunity he’s experiencing with Team USA?

Mikal Bridges expresses his awe and gratitude for representing his country, highlighting the joy he finds in facing challenges and tough moments on the court, and drawing parallels between his basketball journey and the view from his hotel balcony.

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