Following a 60-point outburst against the Utah Jazz in the final game of his 20-year career, Kobe Bryant officially retired. However, with Team USA preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, legendary Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski wanted to make sure the “Black Mamba” didn’t want a spot on the roster.
Speaking to Arash Markazi of ESPN, Coach K explained the thought process behind Bryant possibly wanting a spot on the roster.
“When we were going through the pool we did check to make sure he had retired and he said to Jerry [Colangelo] he had,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s still part of our program. When you have a guy who is a two-time gold medal winner and one of the great players of all-time you would always extend the courtesy.”
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While Bryant said he was interested in playing for Team USA this year, he changed his mind earlier this year. In mid-January, Bryant explained to Jody Genessy of Desert News why he would not be going to the Summer Games this year.
"I think it's the young guys' turn to go. ... I've had my moment,” Bryant said.
This year’s team is made up of some established superstars (Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant) and budding superstars (DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler).
In 2008, Bryant was part of the Team USA squad that led the team to a gold medal. Thanks to his characteristically clutch play, the team was able to secure its place in history as the “Redeem Team,” a play off the 1992 “Dream Team” that captured gold in Spain.
“This whole thing wouldn’t have started the way it did without him,” Krzyzewski added. “With just under nine minutes to go in Beijing against Spain, it;s a two-point game and we’re in a timeout and he took over and so did Dwyane Wade. That’s why I’m still coaching. Believe me, I recognize those moments.”
Despite his Lakers finishing with the second-worst record in the NBA, Bryant went out on top, scoring 60 points on April 13 in a 101-96 win. The five-time NBA champion and former MVP needed 50 shot attempts to do it.
After that game, Bryant addressed the Staples Center audience one last time, thanking them for their support.
"All I can do here is thank you guys," he said to the crowd. "Thank you guys for all the years of support. Thank you guys for all the motivation. Thank you for all the inspiration."
"What can I say? Mamba out," Bryant said with a smile.
While it was a great moment, Bryant, at 37 years old, would not be able to throw up shots to score outrageous amounts of points for his team. Coach K made that clear in the event Bryant had changed his mind and contacted him about trying out for the team.
“The very first thing I would say is, ‘Take a look at the tape of the game and see if that may not be the one you go out on,” Krzyzewski said. “Let’s talk after.’ And he probably wouldn’t call…He wouldn’t be able to take 50 shots here.”
After such a historic performance, neither Coach K or Bryant seemed enthused with the possibility of him extended his professional career.