Kobe Bryant Speaks on USA Basketball: ‘Rest of the World Has Been Caught Up’

Brad Sullivan
4 Min Read

The embarrassing performance of Team USA at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China was a wake-up call for a team that has won the gold medal at the last three Summer Olympics.

In the opinion of legendary Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, the two defeats the team has suffered are an indication that the rest of the world can now compete with Team USA.

Losing games earlier this week to both France and Serbia, while narrowly escaping with a one-point victory over Turkey, means that Team USA will finish in either seventh or eighth place. That’s a humiliating drop for a team that’s been an elite unit for more than a decade.

Bryant was a member of both the 2008 and 2012 Team USA squads, with that first team earning the nickname of the “Redeem Team.” That was in recognition of the team’s intent to atone for a similarly embarrassing performance at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Yet Bryant says that the 2008 squad had some bumps in the their gold medal game against Spain.

“We needed a hell of a fourth quarter to beat Spain,” Bryant said. “And that was a hell of a team we had. We still needed a really late push to beat Spain. So I say that to say, put the best players that you think makes the best U.S. team out there on the floor and we are still going to have challenges. It’s not going to be a cakewalk.

“The days of the 1992 Barcelona Dream Team are gone, over. It’s going to be tough.”

That 1992 team was absolutely dominant in the first Olympics that allowed professionals to compete. The impetus for allowing NBA players at that time began after the 1988 United States men’s basketball team failed to win the gold medal.

A key reason why Team USA struggled this time around was because many top NBA players turned down the opportunity to be a part of the roster. Yet, Bryant believes that even adding the league’s major stars is no longer a guarantee of success during international play.

“It’s not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the U.S.,” Bryant said. “It’s that the rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time. It’s to the point now where the U.S., we’re going to win some and we’re going to lose some. That’s just how it goes.

“We’re going to have our challenges for the next team, whether it’s Redeem 2 or whatever you want to call it. No matter what team it is, it’s not going to be easy.”

Next year’s Summer Olympics will take place in Tokyo, with many of the stars who sat out this year likely to compete. The final roster won’t be selected until next summer, which means that those potential players will be the recipients of many questions about their intent to play.

Whether or not a new era of redemption is set to begin remains to be seen.

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Brad is a freelance writer for LakersDaily.com, who can clearly recall watching Lakers games in 1972 as they captured the first of their 11 Los Angeles-based titles. The franchise's evolution into a beloved and iconic franchise among its fan base since that memorable year allows for a wider perspective to be a part of his writing about the team's current fortunes.