Team USA Rumors
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was the head coach that team, and he shared a particularly memorable anecdote about Olympics Kobe during a recent appearance on JJ Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast. “When we were starting to build a culture at USA basketball, and [Bryant], Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd were added. … We’re getting ready for Beijing, I’m with my staff in Vegas…and all of a sudden there’s a knock on the door, two days early, and it’s Kobe,” Krzyzewski remembered. “He said, ‘I want to guard the best perimeter player on every team that we play.’ Now, he’s the NBA scoring champ, he’s the best player in the league at that time. … And he knew that he would have to change a little bit and be a leader. “And then he pauses — and, you know him and Jordan had the same eyes, they killed you with their eyes — and he leans forward and he said, ‘Coach, I promise you I’ll destroy ’em.’”
Krzyzewski noted that Bryant wasn’t simply leading by example, though. He was looking ahead to a matchup with Manu Ginobili. “He had this vision of moments. He knew that for us to win the gold medal we would have to beat Argentina … and he wanted to guard Ginobili. Believe me, he already had that figured out. It wasn’t just to set an example for the team. … So, we do play Argentina in the semis, and we’re beating them by 20 points and Ginobili gets hurt … and it becomes a six-point game, because now [Kobe’s] not interested anymore. That’s who he was,” Coach K said of the late NBA icon.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Friday night it is unlikely the league will take a break next summer for the Olympic Games, a decision that could dramatically affect the tournament if it is able to be played. “We’ll consider it. I think it’s unlikely, at the end of the day, that, if we start late, we would stop for the Olympics,” Silver said in an interview with NBA TV inside the league’s bubble at Walt Disney World Resort. “Because, as you know, it’s not just a function of stopping for the period in which they are competing over in Tokyo. But they require training camp, and then they require rest afterwards.”
If the NBA season is going on during those tournaments, however, it could dramatically alter how they, and the games themselves, play out. While Silver acknowledged that, he also said that under the current circumstances there isn’t anything the NBA can realistically do about it. “There are so many incredible players, beginning with the USA team, we’ll be able to field a very competitive team,” Silver said. “I am a bit worried about some of the international teams, because, as you know, some of their stars play in our league, and their absence would make a huge difference for those national teams.
Nonetheless, Colangelo is doing his best to prepare Team USA for as many possible scenarios as he can envision. “I’ve been on the phone with (NBA deputy commissioner) Mark Tatum about this, and he said all sorts of possibilities are on the table, but things change every day,” Colangelo said. “I wish I could plan. I just can’t. “I was told the NBA season would start in December, and then it was Christmas, and then after Jan. 1, and that keeps pushing the schedule for me. The NBA season typically takes 170 or 171 days to complete, so that creates a conflict on paper,” said Colangelo, adding that a suspension of the NBA season in order to clear time for the Olympics also has been discussed.
In February of ’92, just three months after announcing his retirement, Johnson cleared a bigger physical and psychological hurdle, playing for the Western Conference in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando. That appearance was one of the first major counters to the concerns – and, frankly, the prejudices – that many people living with HIV had faced from others. There was Magic Johnson, HIV-positive, still doing what he’d done as well as anyone who’d ever played the game. But it had been a long and difficult road to get there. “There was a question if, after his announcement, forget about the All-Star Game,” Johnson’s longtime agent, Lon Rosen, said last week. “If he was going to be able to play in the Olympics, number one, was he going to be alive? Number two, was he going to be healthy? And number three, if he was healthy, would other teams play against him? If you recall, in 1991, some people didn’t want to be in the same room as him. It was COVID to another degree.”
“I’m on vacation with Earvin, we’re in Hawaii, the results come in and he’s leading,” Rosen said. “So I speak with Russ Granik. Russ says, ‘Well, David’s going to let him play, but he’s not going to let him start.’ I say, ‘Hey, Russ, I’m telling you this – if David doesn’t let him start, he ain’t playing.’ Earvin was like, ‘Hell no, I want to start.’ To be true, David had a lot to deal with. There (were) players who were uncomfortable playing against him. … And I can say this, you know, what is it, 30 years since then – they weren’t wrong. It’s unfair. Because, you know what? You didn’t know much about it. It’s a much different disease now. But it was still hurtful. And Stern called me, he called with the old, ‘you m———–.’ He m———– me. It was fine.” But, eventually, Stern relented. Not only would the NBA honor the final fan vote – Johnson’s 658,211 votes were second only to Drexler’s 759,550 among Western Conference guards – it enthusiastically backed Johnson’s appearance in the All-Star Game.