In 2008, Team USA’s path to redemption nearly took a turn for the worst in the Gold Medal game with Spain. Team USA reclaimed their rightful place as the world’s top team behind Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s steady hand. The Duke University legend brought his decades of college basketball success to an American squad featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Dwight Howard at their athletic peaks. It was a breath of fresh air compared to the United States’ disappointing bronze medal finish in 2004. Coach K has been Team USA’s leading man ever since and the program has flourished.
However, when Coach K recently sat down with Lakers.com, he reminded everyone that he wouldn’t even still be walking the sidelines for USA Basketball if not for the supreme influence of Kobe Bryant.
“In London, he was also an integral part of what we were doing and a key guy,” Krzyzewski said at USA Basketball training camp on Tuesday. “But if we lose in Beijing, you’re not interviewing me right now. So I recognize that.”
The Black Mamba put on an absolute show during that gold medal game against Spain scoring 20 points, but saving his best play for the final few minutes. Team USA clung to a 2-point lead with nine minutes remaining when Kobe went on a scoring flurry to ice the game. Coach K attributes the recent success of Team USA attracting elite NBA superstars to Kobe’s time on the 08′ team.
“He was the alpha dog during ’08,” Krzyzewski said. “And we had a lot of other aspiring alpha dogs: LeBron, Carmelo and those guys. So how do you get that era and this era together? They did.
If Team USA earns another gold medal in Rio, Kobe Bryant should be receiving a thank you card in the mail.