The USA Basketball apparatus gathered in Vegas this week for their annual confab, and most of the talk centered around which 12 players will be selected for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Like it’s been for both of the Olympics since the 2004 disaster in Athens, the roster is going to be stacked, and some of the best players in the league will be cut from it. One name though, from way out of left field, that seems to be gathering traction: Kobe Bryant.
Yes, the same Kobe Bryant who has missed the better part of the last two seasons due to a torn Achilles and fractured knee cap, who has previously said he won’t play in 2016, who is likely to retire prior to the Games, and who will turn 38 two days after the gold medal game.
On Tuesday USA Basketball Executive Director Jerry Colangelo revealed that he had a conversation with Bryant about the subject in June, and said “if he had a great year, it would be a great story for him to try to close out his career by winning a gold medal.” After the final scrimmage Thursday night (you didn’t miss anything, they played worse defense than an All-Star game and the best players sat), Colangelo revealed more:
There are two different things that cannot both be true here: that Olympics roster will be based wholly on merit, and that Kobe Bryant has a chance of making it. Kobe Bryant showed up out of shape and was already slipping in the 2012 Olympics, and in the intervening three years he’s only played 119 of 246 possible games. When he’s made it on the court lately, he’s looked like a shell of his former self.
With scoring being the least of Team USA’s problems, there isn’t any role for Kobe. In 2008, surrounded by other great players, he poured a ton of energy into the defensive side and was the team’s number one ballstopper. In 2012, he played the role of wise old sage. But in 2016 he’ll move about as fast as Methuselah on D, and with LeBron as well as possibly Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard from the 2008 roster returning, his experience won’t be needed.
But if Kobe wants to be there and USA Basketball wants to grant him some sort of lifetime achievement award, why not? Bryant was one of the first players to commit to playing in both the 2006 World Championships and 2008 Olympics, and deserves a small slice of the credit for restoring the United States as the undisputed best international team in the world. There’s always a “break glass in case of emergency” guy sitting on the end of the bench—in 2012 it was Anthony Davis, in 2008 it was Michael Redd—and while it would certainly be prudent to have a more useful player than Kobe there in 2016, c’mon, the USA will be fine!
Kobe Bryant is fun as hell to watch play basketball—I guarantee you he would have at least one turn back the clock half at the Olympics—and you know he’s going to do some funny shit. You’re telling me you don’t want to see him ham it up on the court as Blake Griffin dunks on and Stephen Curry rains all over some hapless South American opponent? That you’d rather see Rudy Gay or LaMarcus Aldridge sitting on the end of the bench than Kobe? That you don’t want to see a hilarious Vine of Kobe trying to talk to fans in some Italian-Portuguese mishmash?
Start the petition now: Let Kobe Bryant play in the 2016 Olympics.