One of the most challenging tasks of a coach is managing your players’ egos and making them comfortable in their roles. But there is no tougher situation than having 12 NBA All-Stars on the same team and making sure nobody steps on each other’s toes, especially when you have individuals like Kobe Bryant who got used to shooting every possible type of shot on their NBA team.
The 2008 USA Team, knows as the “Redeem Team,” was a group of players assembled for the mission of bringing glory back to the States after failing to win gold on their last two big international competitions. Mike Krzyzewski was faced with the challenging task of getting that group together and making them play like a team. With players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and more, Coach K had the star power. The only thing he needed was to manage their egos and convincing them to buy into the system. Luckily for him, the team had the same interest — even Kobe, who was the most significant question mark in that department.
But things weren’t going smoothly from the start, as Kobe starting taking some bad shots and raising concern amongst the staff. Coach K would take on the tough task of having a conversation with Kobe and asking him to tone it down a notch:
“We’re gonna win, and in the first half, Kobe started taking Kobe Laker shot, which they had not been doing all game…and LeBron he looks at me, and I know we got a real problem…I told him I will take care of this trust me…So we were up all night as a staff trying to figure out how to handle this, and I said, give me his shots on a computer, and I’ll have an individual meeting with Kobe. So I’m really apprehensive, let’s put it this way about having this meeting, but I gotta do it. I said I’d take care of it.”Mike Krzyzewski, “The Dream Team Tapes: Kobe, LeBron & The Redeem Team” from Diversion Podcasts
Coach K prepared for the conversation. He knew he needed to come with data if he wanted to have any chance to convince Kobe not to be “Laker Kobe.” He got the best answer he could imagine.
“So I brought him in, and I said, look ‘I wanna talk to you about shot selection. Let’ stake a look at these shots,‘ and I said, ‘They’re bullsh** shots. You can’t do that when you have Carmelo and Lebron. It erodes what we’re doing.‘ So I don’t know what I’m gonna get but what I get is like a gift from god. He just said, ‘You’re right, I won’t do that. What else?’“Mike Krzyzewski, “The Dream Team Tapes: Kobe, LeBron & The Redeem Team” from Diversion Podcasts
After that, things went perfectly. The team went on to have an amazing tournament, winning gold and playing like a true team, with all the stars deferring each other and enjoying it, creating the best atmosphere we have ever seen amongst players on Team USA. That is precisely why all the players who played on the 2008 Team still very fondly talk about that experience. Kudos to Coach K for having the character to tell Kobe and all the other stars what they need to do and what their role is for the team to be great.
Knowing what we know about Kobe, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had taken bad shots, knowing they were bad, just to see what his teammates and coach would do.