The Dream Team are in Barcelona for yet another preparation match heading into the 2012 Olympic tournament, as Team USA will face Spain in what might be the game for gold in a couple of weeks as well. Reporters still care more about finding out Kobe Bryant’s thoughts on football, Barcelona and Lionel Messi than actual basketball.
It’s not all chilln’ and relaxin’ for the NBA superstars, even in a so called exhibition event. Kobe Bryant has to prepare for the games he’s playing (already played one against Argentina), take part in sponsors events, in this case Nike, sometimes twice a day, and look like he’s interested when he’s asked the same questions again and again. Hey, when you make about $50 million a year, you’re not allowed to complain.
But in Europe it’s not the same kind of questioning he faces in the USA. No talk about Bynum, about taking too many shots, about hogging the ball, about being over the hill and about title chances. There’s no use asking about chances for a gold medal, because anything but a convincing Olympic tournament, with all double digit wins en route to yet another Olympic gold will be much more than a disappointment. It’ll be a huge failure.
Anyhow, they care much more about football, soccer in Europe than NBA and Olympic basketball, so Bryant did get to talk about a passion of his he usually only has time for during the summer. Football, which he loved to watch growing up in Italy while his dad was playing basketball over there, and Lionel Messi, comparing him to Diego Maradona and Manu Ginobili of all people.
But Bryant is a big Messi and Barcelona fan. If you needed any more proof, he told reported that he thinks that when it’s all said and done, Messi will be regarded as the greatest player of all time, if he isn’t on already. There’s the world cup thing to get out of the way, but regardless, in terms of talent and what he does on the football pitch, Messi is the greatest ever.
Not that Bryant didn’t get to see Maradona. During his Italian childhood the Italian Serie A was the strongest and richest league in the world. AC Milan were at the height of their power, with the Dutch trio of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. Roberto Baggio was on the rise for Fiorentina and then Juventus while Maradona was making Napoli into a champion and a European force almost on his own.
The Argentinian comparisons didn’t stop there, as one of the reporters asked Bryant who does he prefer – Messi or Manu Ginobili. Despite his love for Messi, Bryant went with Ginobili. Not just because he’s an NBA player he allegedly appreciated and loves, but because he’s a fellow Nike Sponsored player. Messi is Adidas, if you had trouble remembering. It’s a corporate world after all.