LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were never teammates in the NBA, but they did manage to play on Team USA together during the 2008 Olympics. The 2008 men's basketball team won a gold medal for the United States that year, bouncing back from their loss to Argentina during the semifinals in the tournament in 2004.
However, Team USA's journey towards the gold medal wasn't without its rough spots. An article by Ryan Glasspiegel of the New York Post revealed that there was a time coach Mike Krzyzewski had to ask star Kobe Bryant for a private meeting after LeBron James called out the superstar for being selfish.
In an exhibition victory over Australia in Shanghai — O’Connor reports in his new book “Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski” — Bryant took some low-percentage shots that didn’t fit the team-first culture Krzyzewski was trying to install. The Duke coach was trying to ensure the Americans didn’t relive their disastrous Olympic experience in Athens four years earlier under then-Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown.
Players noticed, including James.
“Everyone knew it,” one Team USA staffer says in the book. “They know when another player is being selfish. Players can police themselves, but in this instance, as LeBron was coming out of the game, he said to Mike, ‘Yo, Coach, you’d better fix that motherf–ker,’ as he walked by. He was talking about Kobe.
The following morning, before leaving Shanghai, Krzyzewski asked the Lakers’ three-time NBA champ for a private meeting.
“Coach was nervous,” says one of his staffers. “He knew he had to do it.”
Krzyzewski had grown close to Bryant over the years and nearly left Duke in 2004 to coach him in Los Angeles.
When they met in a room, Krzyzewski pulled out a laptop, showed Bryant video examples of his poor judgment, and called some of his field-goal attempts “bulls–t shots,” before telling him, “There has to be more movement.”
“Bryant just looked right at him and said, ‘I got it, Coach. I got it. Don’t worry about it. Sorry about that,’” a team source told O’Connor.
That 2008 Olympics "Redeem Team" was often compared to the 1992 Olympics "Dream Team" due to the star players present on both teams. The talent on the roster was obviously enough to get them the Olympics gold medal. Obviously, any team with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant would have been unstoppable in the NBA, and the same goes for the Olympics.
Kobe Bryant was well-known during his career as a player who took and made a lot of difficult shots. However, on Team USA, he was playing with far more talent than on a regular NBA roster, so it makes sense that coach Krzyzewski would ask him to move the ball more and take less difficult shots. With that being said, Kobe Bryant had his moments in the Olympics, and Chris Bosh claimed that he was outworking the entire team during that time. It is clear that Kobe Bryant was willing to do whatever it took to win, and it seems as though in this case, that was refining his shot selection for the sake of the team.