Winning bronze in the 04 Olympics in Athens was considered as "second loser." Superstars in the making LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade were very young, so the team was led by Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion, and Lamar Odom. Puerto Rico defeated the USA in the opening game, and after a hard-fought battle with Lithuania, the USA eventually won the bronze medal.
That result changed the mentality of the players who wanted to bring the USA to the top again. So the team that played together in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was called the "Redeem Team," widely considered the second-best team since 1992 and the "Dream Team" led by Michael Jordan. At the time, the main question was can LeBron and Kobe play together.
Nobody saw it coming, but it turned out Kobe was the glue guy. His "Mamba Mentality" approach brought all the players together. Kobe knew all the guys, but he wasn't that close with his younger teammates like LeBron, Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul - Bryant was never a fan of getting close with his rivals. So he decided to lead by example.
Kobe went through his usual routine, going to the gym at 5 AM to practice, and Wade was first to join him. Then LeBron came, and soon the rest of the players were at five in the gym putting some work in. That's how they bonded, and all the other players accepted Kobe's leadership. In "The Dream Team Tapes," Phil Jackson reflected on asking Kobe about his approach to leading that team.
“I talked to him about playing in the Olympics, and he talked about the amount of fun they had. I asked him about various characters, Dwayne Wade and Lebron, and if they could keep up with him or if he drilled them as hard as his teammates. He did all of that.”
Phil Jackson, "The Dream Team Tapes"
Team USA won the gold eventually and restored the reputation that was tarnished four years ago. Spain pushed the USA in the final quarter in the gold medal game, but with clutch shots from Wade, Deron Williams, and Kobe, the "Redeem Team" won 118-107.
It's easy to say that the US team had the most talented roster in the Olympics, but if it wasn't for Kobe's determination, who knows how that would turn out in the end.