Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant joined Team USA on its revenge mission ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing, hoping to reclaim the gold for the U.S. following a frustrating finish in Athens four years earlier.
In 2004, Team USA returned home with the bronze medal after a semifinal loss to Manu Ginobili-led Argentina, failing to win the tournament only for the fourth time ever.
To avenge the bitter defeat, coach Mike Krzyzewski called up the creme de la creme for the trip to the Far East in 2008. Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, all in their prime, made the roster — as did Bryant, who missed the previous Olympics due to his sexual assault case.
Bryant joined fellow NBA superstars in Beijing as the freshly-anointed MVP. Also, he had just lost the 2008 NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers — to the Boston Celtics, no less — making him as hungry for success as the Black Mamba could get.
On Aug. 24, 2008 — a date that would become known as Kobe Bryant Day over a decade later — Team USA beat Spain 118-107 to claim the gold medal and earn a new nickname: the Redeem Team.
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) August 24, 2022
With just over three minutes left in the game, Kobe knocked down a dagger 3 while drawing a foul on Rudy Fernandez to make it a four-point play. After converting from the charity stripe, the Lakers guard extended Team USA’s lead to nine, all but securing the gold-winning victory over the Gasol brothers — Pau Gasol had only joined the Lakers in February that year — and their teammates.
Bryant ended up with 20 points, three rebounds, and six assists in 27 minutes, shooting 50% from the field and 37.5% from downtown. He would claim his second Olympic gold four years later, triumphing with the U.S. at the 2012 Games in London.
After winning the 2008 games, Bryant famously brought his gold medal to Lakers training camp the following fall and stuck it right in Gasol’s locker as motivation. It seemed to work, as Bryant, Gasol and the Lakers then went on to win back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Meanwhile, the Redeem Team will be a subject of a Netflix documentary, executive produced by James and Wade.
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