Matthew Dellavedova was an absolute blubbering mess.
The tears started after the final buzzer and they didn’t look like stopping anytime soon.
About 30 minutes after the Boomers secured a historic bronze medal – their first medal of any colour at an Olympics – with a win over Slovenia on Saturday night, emotions were still running high.
Walking past reporters with that freshly acquired bling draped around his neck, Dellavedova’s puffy, red eyes told you the result was about so much more than just one night.
Four times previously our men’s basketball team has played off for third at the Olympics and four times they’d fallen short. In Rio five years ago, they held the lead with just seconds remaining before Spain stole the bronze medal from their grasp with a last-gasp one-point win.
Dellavedova’s tears in Tokyo washed away the pain from all those near-misses.
“It means everything. We just fought so long and hard for it. Australian basketball has fought so long and hard for it. Every Boomer is a part of this,” he said, barely, as his words fought with the waterworks for right of way.
“It just feels awesome.
“There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this. A lot of hard times and … a lot of support for each other in the group, from our families and wives, coaches, and we just keep coming back and kept building.
“We’ve worked our whole lives for this. You’re representing your family, your hometown, your state, your country and the whole of Australia. It’s just unreal.”
Dante Exum tried to bring the mood up. “Smile, Delly! Smile! Don’t cry, smile!” he said as he walked past and put his hands on Dellavedova’s shoulders.
Coach Brian Goorjian had never been this nervous before a game in his life. He didn’t want to let the players down. Having been involved with Australian basketball for so long, the American-born mentor craved this result as much as anyone but his first and only thought was for his players, and what he could do to help them savour the sweet taste of success.
Joe Ingles, who along with Patty Mills – the superstar of the show with a jaw-dropping 42 points – was at his fourth Olympics, channelled the sentiment of Aussie legend Andrew Gaze, paying tribute to the players who came before him and the support behind each team member that allowed the Boomers to reach that elusive podium.
“We’ve got families, we’ve got friends who have given so much for us to be in these positions as well,” Ingles said. “Speaking of myself, my wife and my kids have given up way too much time for me to continue to leave after an NBA season, get on a plane, take off and join these guys.
“My wife’s got three kids at home by herself and the sacrifice, there’s so many people involved in this. The past players, the past players on our staff … there’s so much investment from so many people.
“My wife and kids have been a massive part of this, probably more than I could ever explain. You’re going to make me cry so I’m going to stop. That’s it. Thankyou.”