Mike Krzyzewski reveals that Kobe Bryant actively courted the challenge of guarding their opponents’ best players at Beijing 2008.
It’s well-known that Team USA basketball faced its leanest period without success from 2002 to 2006. Their initial loss at the 2002 FIBA World Cup was attributed to having a weak roster.
However, they fielded MVPs and MVP-caliber talent at both the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Japan. They were still unable to snag the elusive gold medal at either tournament.
Coach K then requested Kobe Bryant to enter the Team USA Basketball program. For some reason or the other, the then-3-time champion hadn’t been able to commit to national duty till then. He gladly chose to do so.
Also Read – “Lebron James, me and the Lakers are going to be everybody’s motherf*king a*es”: Russell Westbrook issues a bold yet hilarious statement in response to the ‘old’ narrative surrounding his team
Kobe’s involvement brought a noticeable facelift to the entire program, as the fans of the team will concur. Coach K revealed a few more nuggets about Kobe’s role in a later interview with JJ Redick.
Mike Krzyzewski talks about Kobe Bryant and his resolve to guard Team USA’s best opposition scorers
JJ Redick was a 4-year Duke University product who played under Coach K during his time there. He naturally has a great equation with the former Team USA Basketball Head Coach, as the all-time highest scorer for his program.
Coach K was on JJ Redick’s ‘The Old Man and the Three’ podcast last year. He talked about the experience of Kobe Bryant coming to him and demanding the toughest assignment for every contest:
“I am with my staff in Vegas a couple of days before the team comes in and all of a sudden there’s a knock on the door, two days early, and it’s Kobe. He said, ‘Coach, can I talk to you for a minute?’”
“We went to a private room, and he said, ‘I need to ask you a favor.’ I said ‘yeah, what is it?’ He said, ‘I want to guard the best perimeter player on every team we play… Coach, I promise you, I’ll destroy ’em.’”
“We go we have a team meeting in the first practice. He doesn’t take a shot. He’s playing defense… I said, ‘I’ve seen you destroy teams, offensively. Will you shoot the frickin’ ball?’”
“He knew that for us to win the gold medal, we would have to beat Argentina… He wanted to guard Ginobili, he already had that figured out, and he’s gonna prepare to guard Ginobili.”