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What makes the Mamba? 5 little-known stories about Kobe that further his legend

  • Yet another collection of Kobe tales to help you through the dreary offseason.
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 24 Aug 2018, 18:48 IST

#3 Changing the work culture within Team USA

USA v Lithuania - Pre-Olympics Friendly
USA v Lithuania - Pre-Olympics Friendly

Following the Dream Teams I and II's exploits in '92 and '96 and Vince Carter's dunk over a 7'1" center in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Team USA had slipped once more from their status as the world's best basketball country in the mid-2000s.

Starting with a 6th-placed finish at the 2002 FIBA World Championship, the USA then had to endure the ignominy of losing twice in the 2004 Olympics in the process of winning the bronze medal.

These woes were compounded at the 2006 FIBA World Cup, where despite fielding a strong roster comprising of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Joe Johnson, they lost to Greece in the semifinal en route another bronze-winning run.

Former USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo credits Bryant for playing “a very large part” in revamping the program’s culture after the 2004 squad settled for bronze at the Athens Games.

“His work ethic, approach and how he appreciates the game is infectious,” Team USA forward Kevin Durant said last month in Las Vegas. “He’s someone who loves to play so much. He’s competitive when he steps in between those lines. He wants perfection.”

Bryant logged ridiculous hours in pursuit of that perfection, just weeks after having poured himself into an NBA regular season that ended with a six-game loss to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals. Watching Bryant work left Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh shaking his head, mindful that the future Hall of Famer had just logged extended minutes during that playoff run.

“I thought I was working hard,” Bosh said. “Now I have to get back into the gym.”

After training for three weeks together before heading to Beijing, former U.S. Olympic teammate Carlos Boozer noticed the entire roster had adopted Bryant’s routine.

“We all clung to it,” said Boozer, who later played with Bryant as a member of the Lakers in 2014-15 and recently agreed to a deal to play in China. “It soon became our workout, not just his workout.”

Published 24 Aug 2018, 18:48 IST
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