Because Kobe Bryant had such a storied 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, it is sometimes forgotten how important he was in returning the USA Men’s Basketball program back to greatness.
Kobe was a key player on both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic squads and his impact was felt throughout the program as Coach K recently spoke to. In teaming with superstars like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, Kobe, changed the way they saw things as well.
Carmelo was teammates with Kobe in both 2008 and 2012 and pointed to Kobe’s mental approach as the thing he took from him according to Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com:
“For me, it was more his mental approach to the games and seeing him in the locker room before the games and seeing how he prepares for the games and for teams and for individuals,” Anthony said. “I took more from that than anything from his game.”
Durant was only teammates with Kobe in 2012 and while he also spoke on Kobe’s mental approach, what stood out most to him was Kobe’s willingness to sacrifice in order for the team to win:
“Kobe Bryant’s done so much in this league,” Durant said. “He didn’t have to play. He wanted to. He came out here and sacrificed everything. In 2012 he was just the greatest, man. He was a great leader. He didn’t care about shots — none of that stuff. He wanted to help us win and he was passionate about it.”
In 2008 Kobe took more of a lead role on the team and his performance in the Gold Medal Game against Spain will go down as one of the best clutch performances in international basketball. In 2012 he took a backseat to the likes of Anthony, Durant, and LeBron James, serving more as the team’s defensive stopper.
In both cases, Kobe was critical to the success of Team USA and his impact on both the program, and the players he teamed with, is still going on to this day.