Both Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are two of the greatest players the NBA has seen this turn of the millennia, as the league has pretty much belonged to the pair since 2000, with the two combining for 8 championships in 18 years.
James and Bryant have rarely played together, if at all over the course of their careers. Apart from, of course, the two times both LBJ and Kobe represented the US in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
After the disappointing performance from Team USA in the 2004 Olympics, winning bronze, the 2008 Olympic team was labelled the 'Redeem Team', in hopes of the US reclaiming gold-medal status in Men's Basketball.
Both Kobe and LeBron have been compared for almost their entire careers, so it comes as no surprise that the pair were compared heavily while over in Beijing.
Longtime Team USA assistant coach Jim Boeheim explained how two two acted while over in China, via Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports.
This isn’t to say LeBron sat quietly in the backseat behind Kobe, even at age 23. His friendships with Wade, Anthony and Paul grew stronger in 2008 — “They were in the card games,” says Boeheim. “They were always together” — and there was no mistaking the leader of that next generation. LeBron’s combination of basketball ability and IQ commanded respect not just from his peers, but everyone on the roster. When he spoke, they listened.
Then-Detroit Piston Tayshaun Prince, who was on the 2008 team, also shared the same sentiment.
“Even though Coach K made Jason Kidd the captain, LeBron was pretty much a captain as well,” says Prince. “Because whether it was trying to do a breakfast in the morning or go work out at the gym before practice or any of that stuff, LeBron was the guy who was calling everybody and saying, ‘Hey, I’m doing this, man, if we all want to get our chemistry together and try to get this thing rolling the right way.’ He was the guy setting things up so everybody could be together. For him to be doing that at his age at that time, it was impressive.”
Kobe took a different tact. “His mentorship was going out, playing hard all the time, putting in the work, and letting you see it,” says Prince.
Just like the stories that have been sprouted in the media a million times before, LeBron was a team-first leader, where as Kobe led by example, wanting his peers to follow his lead.
The combination of these two leadership styles led to Team USA capturing the gold medal over Spain, their first since 2000.