The best American born players gathered in the desert as Team USA held it’s annual summer mini-camp this week in Las Vegas. From LeBron James to Kevin Durant to Steph Curry, the game’s elite showed out to practice and throw their names in the hat as potential participants in next summer’s Olympics being held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
One player who was not present, but still getting ink, was Kobe Bryant. Though Kobe has previously gone on record saying the 2012 games in London would be his last, Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo left the door open for Kobe to compete in 2016. This led to a flurry of reports openly wondering if Kobe could, in fact, find his way onto the team.
Well, those reports will only intensify now that Colangelo has gone even further with comments detailing conversations with the Lakers’ star. From ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“I was quoted on Kobe,” Colangelo said after USA Basketball’s intrasquad scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center. “In response to a question about him, I said it would be a great story if he did [play in Rio].
“And so, he also mentioned to me in a private conversation that if he had his druthers, he would love to ride off into the sunset playing one more time and winning the gold medal. And that would be the end. But he was very quick to say, ‘But, I don’t want a spot. I need to earn the spot. I need to be capable of playing at that level to be considered.’ And I said, ‘You got that. That’s always there for you, Kobe.'”
If Kobe cannot go out on a winning Lakers’ team, the next best thing would be for him to represent his country one last time, playing alongside the game’s elite players, and earning a gold medal in the Olympics. Kobe already has two golds (from 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London), but joining his teammates on that medal stand one more time as the national anthem played would still be an amazing accomplishment.
Of course, as noted, being selected would be a whole other story and one has to wonder if Kobe has another season good enough in him to “earn” the spot. Kobe will be 38 when the team suits up in Rio and, while showing flashes of brilliant play this past season, he has not proven to be consistent nor healthy enough to expect the type of top flight campaign one would expect of a player worthy of being named to the roster. A simple glance at the 34 man roster in Vegas this past week shows tremendous depth and quality.
But Kobe is a Team USA veteran and an icon of the sport. And, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to have an elder statesman like Kobe on the roster as a leader and short minutes contributor. Plus, as Colangelo said, it would be a great story and, while Kobe’s presence might remove an up and coming talent, it’s not likely to mean the difference between winning and losing.
Ultimately, I doubt it happens. But, to be honest, rather than see Kobe’s last meaningful basketball play out in (what will likely be) mostly meaningless games with a (probable) non-competitive Lakers’ team, it would be quite fun to see him give it one last go on the world’s stage with the best of the best. We’re a long way off from that, of course, but it is something worth hoping for.