With two gold medals, Kobe Bryant has seen plenty of international success. At the end of this season, he might not be with the Los Angeles Lakers anymore. Maybe not in the NBA anymore. And yet some people think it’s a good idea for him to play in another Olympic tournament.
Bryant has played only 41 NBA games over the last two seasons. He has had some impressive scoring games in them, averaging 21.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists. But he also shot 37.8% from the field in those games, and has often done more harm to his team than good. He’s no longer the best shooting guard in the league, far from it. Simply put, even if he does get to shine from time to time, Bryant simply isn’t one of the best players in the league anymore.
He’s not a consistent enough shooter, he’s not a hungry and motivated enough defender anymore, and his decision making is always wavering between what’s good for the team and what’s good for him. When his legs and body could carry him through rough patches and physical nights, teams could live with that. But Bryant isn’t the player he was in 2012 nor in 2008. Even the Lakers would take back the contract that gave him two more years of keeping the franchise from taking off again.
I was quoted on Kobe. 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.’.
Along with Mike Krzyzewski, Jerry Colangelo has done a very good job of putting Team USA back on top of the international game, with two gold medals in the Olympics and two more in the world championships, with only Spain giving them actual trouble in two Olympic finals. The team that won the world’s last year was way ahead of the competition despite not fielding the strongest possible team.
Even with Bryant as part of the 12-man squad to Rio de Janeiro, there shouldn’t be a problem winning gold with so much talent and young/healthy enough players around him to hide his easily spotted flaws. But if it’s about earning your place, than Bryant, unless he does something unfathomable this season, should be kept off the team. Not just because he has already been part of two gold medal winning teams, but for the simple fact there are enough better players than him competing for about five guard spots on the final roster, which Bryant doesn’t deserve to be on.