2012 Team USA member recalls ‘grumpy old man’ Kobe Bryant being opposite of LeBron James with jokester mentality

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read

Kobe Bryant was by far the oldest player on the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team, and according to teammate Tyson Chandler, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar definitely acted like it.

Chandler was describing the personalities that made up the squad that won the gold medal at the 2012 London Games, a roster that included NBA veterans LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony plus younger stars James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

“Bron was always the jokester,” Chandler said. “He kept it loose and funny all the time. Bron is actually funny as hell. Melo controlled the music. He was like Radio Raheem. Melo always had a boom box coming on the bus.

“And then it was the young crew ’cause you had young James, young K.D., young Russ, and they was all together. They kept the youth of it. So it was a great collection.”

Asked if Bryant was the “grumpy old man,” Chandler replied, “Yup. Yup.”

“Kob was the older dude that wasn’t trying to hear all that laughing and joking and s—,” Chandler said.

Bryant was almost 34 years old at the time, as much as 10 years older than some of his teammates and 14 years older than youngest member Anthony Davis. The future Hall of Famer was a starter but played mostly a supporting role on the court, with an average of 12.1 points per game that was fourth on the team behind Durant, Anthony and James.

Chandler also started all eight games at the Olympics but played just a little over 11 minutes per game as the team’s only true center. Dwight Howard, a member of the 2008 U.S. team, was unavailable after having back surgery.

The 19-season NBA veteran wound up as teammates with James on the Lakers in the 2018-19 NBA season before playing his final campaign with the Houston Rockets.

Bryant’s attitude toward the younger players may have caused some hard feelings at times, including some trash-talking with Westbrook during a Team USA practice. But others have had nothing but praise for the NBA icon, with Andre Iguodala saying he would not have been on the 2012 team if Bryant had not mentioned him as being the top defender in the NBA.

The Lakers have maintained their close connection to USA Basketball, with Austin Reaves starring for Team USA and helping them reach the semifinals at the ongoing 2023 FIBA World Cup tournament. James also is hinting at possibly playing for the United States at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The Lakers’ current superstar almost certainly would be the oldest player on that team, like Bryant was in 2012, but if Chandler’s recollections are true, it would be with a slightly lighter attitude than the legendary “Mamba Mentality.”

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.