NBA All-Star Kevin Durant praised his teammates after claiming a game-high 29 points to lead the United States to a 87-82 victory over France for a "beautiful" fourth straight Olympic men's basketball gold.
The Americans started slowly but earned a 22-18 lead after the first quarter and were 44-39 ahead at halfway, then survived some nervous late moments to prove the doubters wrong.
Gregg Popovich's team had headed to Tokyo after defeats to Nigeria and Australia in lead-up exhibition matches, sparking questions around their global dominance.
They then crashed to seventh-ranked France in their opening group game, their first defeat at an Olympics since 2004 in Athens.
But spearheaded by Durant, they steadied the ship and began gelling, with a French team led by NBA stars Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum unable to repeat their feat in the final.
Durant was once again the US backbone as he joined Carmelo Anthony as a three-time title-winner, after being part of the triumphant teams in 2012 and 2016.
He had already reinforced his stature by surpassing his fellow great during group play to become their all-time leading Olympic points-scorer.
"This one feels good because we went through a lot," said the 32-year-old, who is poised to sign a four-year, $198 million contract extension with the Brooklyn Nets, according to his manager.
"We had a lot of first-time guys on the team, new experience for everyone on the team, Covid, the kind of bubble we were in, no fans, no-one expecting us to lose.
"We heard it all over the past few weeks about our team. To fight through this adversity against a great team like these guys... to come together so fast - it was beautiful to see, it was beautiful to be a part of."
Durant scored 30 points in each of his last two gold-medal games, and nearly matched that again, proving how crucial he is ito the team.
He ended with three assists and six rebounds while Boston Celtic guard Jayson Tatum racked up 19 points and seven rebounds. Utah Jazz centre Gobert and the Celtics' Fournier both sank 16 points to lead the way for France.
"Our goal was to push them as far as possible in this game. Unfortunately we did a couple of mistakes at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter," said French coach Vincent Collet.
"We were turning it over a few times because we changed the way we played a little bit.
"We were insisting a lot on the inside game and suddenly we started dribbling the ball and driving to find the kick. We did it two or three times well, but you know there will be some turnovers and against USA, that is what hurt us the most and denied us."