BEIJING This was the stuff a Dream Team is made of. Acrobatic moves, reverse slams and tomahawk dunks. Who needs outside shooting? Just toss it up and throw it down.
The United States opened its campaign for Olympic basketball redemption Sunday with a 101-70 rout of host China that had even the home crowd oohing and aahing.
Dwyane Wade lobbed one up to LeBron James on a fastbreak, James caught it in midair with one hand and in one motion, slammed it home.
Kobe Bryant drove to the basket a couple of times for tomahawk dunks, sending the crowd into a frenzy each time.
And not to be outdone, Wade had a behind-the-head, back-to-the-basket two-handed dunk of his own.
This wasn't a game, this was a spectacle.
And the fans, including President Bush, got what they came to see.
"Look, I had five dunks in one game. That's because of the crowd. Last time I had five dunks in a game I was like 17. So that's all because of the energy in this crowd," Bryant said. "I think they knew that history was being made tonight and obviously it was a proud moment for their country as it was for ours. You could feel the electricity."
Wade scored 19 points and James had 18 for the Americans. Bryant finished with 13 points.
But the score didn't matter in this All-Star game setting.
"It was our first game. We were very anxious. We missed shots that we normally would hit. But at the end of the day, you win by almost 30 points, you've got to take good things out of that," Wade said. "We played very, very hard. We give ourselves a chance defensively every night. That's what it's all about with us."
China's Yao Ming, All-Star center for the Houston Rockets, started the showcase by drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key for the first score of the game.
The Americans made 21 of their first 25 shots inside the 3-point arc, though they had another inept night behind it. Still, with James, Wade and Bryant repeatedly getting out on the break, the poor 3-point shooting wasn't a problem on this night.
"We came out a little tight. We knew that it was going to be a very emotional game for both teams, especially China, playing in front of their home crowd," U.S. forward Chris Bosh said. "We withstood the storm, we calmed down and we just played a lot better basketball."
NBA players are wildly popular in China, where the league estimates 300 million people play basketball. The Americans, still known as the Dream Team here, enjoyed a huge backing during exhibition games in Macau and Shanghai, support that will surely help them here on their gold-medal quest.
Bush came out first, walking to his seat above center court about a half hour before the 10:15 start. He was still shaking hands and slapping five with fans around him minutes later when Yao, back from season-ending foot surgery in March, led China's players onto the floor to a thunderous ovation.
Fans throughout the arena chanted "Jia You! Jia You!" (Let's go!) and cheered plays on both ends. There was nothing resembling a boo until the referees called Yao for a blocking foul, instead of the charge he hoped for, on a basket by James almost 5 minutes into the game.
Yao's 3-pointer to start the game sent the crowd back into a frenzy and China stayed in the game for a while by hitting from behind the arc. The Chinese hit eight of their first 12 attempts, with Sun Yue's 3 tying it at 29 with 6:09 remaining in the second quarter.
"Maybe this was our biggest mistake, that we think on the floor that this can be continued, you know?" coach Jonas Kazlauskas said of his players, who cooled off to finish 10-of-27 behind the arc.
The Americans then started forcing turnovers by China's smaller guards long the team's Achilles' heel and broke open the game with a series of layups and dunks. That helped the U.S. score 10 straight, highlighted by James' spectacular one-handed slam of Wade's alley-oop pass, to build a 45-32 lead with under 2 minutes left in the half.
The lead reached 20 when Wade hit two free throws with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter, and the U.S. team kept building on it from there. Michael Redd's 3-pointer with 6:54 to play made it 84-50 and sent Bush and his family to the exits.
Yao checked out about 2 minutes later, raising a fist to the appreciative fans who were still cheering even in the blowout.
The Americans face Angola on Tuesday. Things don't get any easier for the Chinese, who face world champion Spain.