Back in 2007, Kobe Bryant had the reputation of being a great individual player that focuses more on scoring than getting his team wins. His ability to play team basketball, defer to others, and take a role was very questionable, so Kobe’s spot in Team USA was a bit of a risk. But a year before the 2008 Olympics, Kobe Bryant made sure Mike Krzyzewski knows he will do everything to help the team win.
The players that were in contention for making the team were skeptical of Kobe’s fit, wondering how much he would be willing to give up and help the team. But Coach K shared how at the 2007 Vegas Training Camp, Kobe made his life a lot easier.
“Two days before we started meeting for that team, we were in Vegas as a staff and were planning. Then all of a sudden, there was a knock on the door, and it’s Kobe. He’s there 2 days early! Again, I’m not embellishing this at all; he [Kobe] said, ‘Coach, I’d like to talk to you for a little bit….he continued, “I need for you to do me a favor’ and I said, of course, what’s the favor, and he [Kobe] said, ‘I wanna guard the best perimeter player of very team we face….and I promise you, I’ll destroy them!”Mike Krzyzewski, “The Dream Team Tapes: Kobe, LeBron & The Redeem Team” from Diversion Podcasts
Coach K compared the look and demeanor Kobe had in that conversation to MJ and Magic. Kobe held to his word, as he proved his determination to the team by not shooting a single shot in their first practice and focusing solely on locking up his matchups. It was the example the coaching staff and the team needed to see, helping them become a true team.
It proved to work perfectly, with Team USA storming to the gold medal and Kobe having a fantastic tournament. He was playing as we have never seen him before. Bryant was picking up guys full court, spotting up and waiting for his shot, but still had that killer instinct in the closing minutes, which the team needed. And when it was most important, in the finals versus Spain, Kobe sealed the game and proved to be a massive part of the “Redeem Team.” A team that prided itself in the brotherhood and camaraderie they built between each other.