Mike Krzyzewski a huge reason why Kobe Bryant joined Team USA
USA Basketball went on a mission after returning home with a bronze medal in the Athens 2004 Olympics, committed to bringing back the gold under a clean house led by front office guru Jerry Colangelo. Former Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who was fresh off an NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons, would prove the key piece, but one that wouldn’t be possible to obtain without the help of Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Mike Krzyzewski, a former West Point grad, was quick to instill his military mentality to these pro athletes, quickly bringing in generals, as well as Navy SEALs, who shared their insight on what it meant to serve their country.
Bryant quickly bought in.
“Our small way of representing the United States of America,” he recalls, according to Jonathan Abrams of B/R Mag. “You can play for the Los Angeles Lakers, you can play for the Spurs, the Heat, the Mavs, whoever, but it’s different when you put on a USA jersey because now you’re playing for country.”
With Bryant as the stalwart, Krzyzewski quickly put in other valuable pieces like LeBron James and sharpshooter Michael Redd, prioritizing versatility over star power — a mistake former Team USA coach Larry Brown dearly paid for, as Allen Iverson, a career 31.3 percent 3-point shooter, led the Americans in threes made throughout the tournament.
It would be Kobe Bryant who would provide those moments of magic in a battle against Spain in the title game, glory which he would ride into his NBA life, winning titles in his next two seasons after bringing home the gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.