Kobe Bryant Says He'll Play In 2012 Olympics
When it comes to playing international basketball, Kobe Bryant refuses to go quietly into the night.
The 32-year-old Lakers star told Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski on Wednesday that he's ready to play in the 2012 Olympics if the team wants him there.
"You guys want me there, I am there and I'm ready to defend," Bryant said on Krzyzewski's Sirius radio show. "And then when you guys need me to put some points on the board, I'll do that, too."
Kobe was a captain and key contributor on the 2008 team that won gold in Beijing. He averaged 15 points and 2.1 assists in eight Olympic games and was Team USA's go-to-guy down the stretch in the championship game against Spain, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.
He was also one of the team's primary stoppers on defense.
Without him, the "Redeem Team" likely wouldn't have won gold.
Kobe is getting older, though, and his legs aren't getting any fresher. By the end of Wednesday night, he'll have logged the most minutes in Lakers team history (passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). And we're still almost two years away from the London Games. He'll be 34 by the time the tournament begins and will likely have 43,000 minutes of NBA wear and tear on his body.
He'll be a dinosaur by NBA standards, which creates a dilemma for Coach K.
Does he keep Kobe on as a veteran presence (a la Jason Kidd in '08) and a potential late-game performer? Or does he politely say thanks but no thanks and take a younger star instead (say, Derrick Rose or Stephen Curry)?
It's a tough decision.
MVP awards aside, Kobe is still regarded as the best player in the league. His peers respect him and his influence is obviously a good one at the international level -- LeBron James and Co. stepped it up in practice when they saw how hard Kobe worked.
If he's healthy, it's going to be hard to say no to him, even if it's at the detriment of someone like Rose or Curry.