United States' Michael Phelps shows his gold medal during the medal ceremony for the men's 200-meter butterfly final during the swimming competitions in the National Aquatics Center at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Michael Phelps finally seems to be grasping what it all means. Maybe it started to sink in when the president showed up at the Water Cube and came back for an encore. Maybe he got a better idea when all those NBA superstars, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James among them actually led the cheers for him. Maybe it was those relentless text messages from friends back home. Maybe he actually listened when the race announcer at the pool said in a deep, authoritative voice: "Michael Phelps, greatest Olympian ever." The head dipped. The shoulders twitched. The slightest of smiles creased his lips.