Last year, when Tom Thibodeau offered Kobe Bryant a spot on the Men’s 2016 USA Olympic Basketball Team, the Black Mamba declined.
Last week, however, USA Basketball Executive Director Jerry Colangelo said Bryant still has a chance at making the team, despite not attending the team’s mini-camp.
Apparently Kobe and Colangelo actually discussed the possibility in June, and while no guarantees were made, Colangelo said if Kobe is healthy and able to play at a high level, “the door would be open” for him to make his third appearance as a member of Team USA in the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Olympics.
The fact that the two discussed the possibility means that Vino is perhaps considering the option.
It was later quoted by Colangelo that Kobe “would love to ride off into the sunset playing one more time and winning the gold medal.” However, according to Colangelo, Bryant wants to earn the spot, if he indeed decides to play.
The thought of him playing next year actually crossed my mind earlier this summer and I, for one, think the Mamba should absolutely go for it.
If Kobe still hasn’t decided whether or not he’ll go full bore at trying to make the team, I’d like to give a few reasons why it would be great for everyone — Lakers fans, international Kobe fans, the game of basketball, and Kobe Bryant himself — if he played in the 2016 Olympics.
Before I get into why, let’s take a look back at Kobe’s Olympic Legacy:
Kobe’s Olympic Legacy
While perhaps not always mentioned for his accolades during international play, Kobe’s already cemented a certain legacy in the Olympic games.
In his first stint with the Olympic team in 2008, the Black Mamba averaged 15.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while being the team’s designated perimeter defensive stopper — but added some memorable moments when it mattered most.
If you rewind a few years to Team USA’s prior Olympic outing (2004), the squad failed to earn a gold medal and settled for Bronze.
While LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade were all fresh NBA stars during those 2004 Olympics, they all played together again in the 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cup, but once again failed to win Gold, in favor of Bronze. This was a year in which Kobe was supposed to participate, but couldn’t due to injury.
Enter Kobe Bryant in 2007 for the FIBA Americas Championship, a tournament which Team USA had to play in and reach the Final simply to qualify for the Olympics, due to the previous year’s loss.
With Dwyane Wade out due to injury this time, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony led the team offensively, but the Mamba took it upon himself from day one to set the tone defensively — leading the team in steals with 1.6 per game throughout the tournament. From the very first practice in which Kobe vowed to be the team’s defensive stopper, he arguably implemented a winning mindset.
This time, the team had no such trouble as in years past, routing its way to a championship without any hiccups. In the Final against Argentina, Bryant led the team with 27 points and four steals to seal the deal.
Resume play to the 2008 Olympics.
While Chris Paul (4.1 assists) and LeBron James (15.5 points, 3.8 assists) were the ball-dominant players, Dwyane Wade was the leading scorer throughout the tournament, averaging 16.0 points.
Kobe — being the third-leading scorer — was an integral part of that team, but didn’t quite take on the role of “The Man,” as he’d done throughout his career. Even though he had just come off of an MVP season in the NBA, he decided to continue the responsibility of being the team’s defensive specialist, as he saw it as the most glaring weakness for Team USA.
However, he truly showed his elite status in the gold medal game.
With the game on the line and the gold medal in doubt, Kobe’s superstar teammates deferred to him and entrusted him to make nearly all of the decisions down the stretch in a tough battle with Spain. With the ball in his hands, he set the table for the best players in the world, and made some enormously clutch shots himself — finishing with 20 points and a game-high six assists.
With the gold medal hanging in the balance, there was no way the NBA’s MVP would let his country down, and boy did he deliver by doing what he was hands-down the best at doing at the time — closing out ballgames.
He may not have quite the same impact as he did in 2008 if he plays next year, but he could certainly still add to his legacy, or at least allow the fans to celebrate his legacy by playing.
Here are a few reasons why it would be the perfect scenario if Kobe played in the 2016 Olympics:
CONTINUE READING: Why Kobe Bryant Playing In 2016 Rio Olympics Would Be Perfect