Happy (Late) Birthday Kobe! Relive His Clutch Play at the ’08 Olympic Games

The FIBA World Cup is upon us, and USA Basketball is looking to extend their streak of global supremacy. To help celebrate Kobe Bryant’s 36th birthday, let’s take a look back at his game-saving heroics in the 2008 Gold Medal Game in Beijing that rescued Team USA from a second straight humiliating defeat at the Olympics.

Kobe had just wrapped up his lone MVP season and was arguably at the pinnacle of his powers. The full repertoire was on display that game as he scored, rebounded, ratcheted up on D, passed the ball well, served popcorn, did some sideline reporting, and filled in as a part-time parking lot attendant.

The Spanish National Team – with its formidable front-court tandem of Marc and Pau Gasol – was (and is) the biggest threat to the USA’s gold-medal aspirations, and with less than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, Spain had fought back to within two points and carried all the momentum into the final stretch.

That’s when the Mamba woke from his slumber.

He went onto score 13 points in the final period and was involved in just about every crucial possession whether he was blocking shots, finding the open teammate (people forget that Kobe has incredible court vision but to our enduring frustration doesn’t use it as much as we’d like him to), or knocking down big shots. He finished with 20 points, a game-high six assists, and two blocks. Though a fully-convalesced Dwyane Wade was undoubtedly the best player on the Redeem Team in ’08, it was Kobe’s clutch play against a gutsy Spanish National Team that helped bring home the gold.

Would the Redeem Team have won the gold without Kobe?

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