Kobe Bryant left plenty of anecdotes wherever he went, including Team USA, where he left a huge mark. Kobe led two teams to win the gold medal in the Summer Olympic games, having outstanding performances representing the country. Coach Mike Krzyzewski recently recalled the time the player wanted to make a big impact on the games but in a different way than he used to do it.
Joining JJ Redick’s ‘The Old Man and the Three’ podcast, Coach K shared an incredible story of Kobe Bryant refusing to shoo the ball for Team USA as he wanted to focus only on defense. Krzyzewski said he went to Las Vegas with his staff to get everything ready before players arrived. Kobe arrived two days early to have a private meaning with the legendary head coach.
He asked him to guard the best perimeter player in every team they were going to face in the tournament.
“He said ‘I wanna guard the best perimeter player on every team that we play.’ He’s the NBA scoring champion, he’s the best player in the league at that time, he had seven 50-point games that year and he knew he would have to change a little bit but he wanted to guard the best perimeter player. You know, he and Jordan had the same eyes; they killed you with their eyes. He leans forward and says: coach, I promise you I’ll destroy ’em. I was like ‘holy sh*t, this is good.”
From that time on, Kobe never attempted a single shot in practice, which worried coach K. He just played defense.
“We go, we have a team meeting. In the first practice, he doesn’t take a shot. Does not take one shot. And he’s just playing defense. He comes over afterward and I say ‘yo, this destroy thing?’ he says, ‘coach, I promised you.’ I said, ‘yo, I’ve seen you destroy teams offensively, would you shoot the freaking ball?’ and he smiled and said that I was the only coach ever that asked him to shoot.”
Kobe knew he would have to make different things for that team and in the end, it paid off. That redemption team won the gold medal after beating, taking revenge of Argentina in the semifinals for their 2004 loss against the South American team in the same stage. Kobe was different; he always tried to challenge himself and in doing so, he made his team better, almost always winning thanks to him.