O.C. Register: Kobe Bryant has won games and NBA titles and fans along the way.
He has a lucrative contract, money-spinning endorsements and moves envied by players around the world.
Now Bryant is going after the one thing he doesn’t own, something that could earn him, and the other 11 members of the U.S. National basketball team, the respect it lost four years ago – an Olympic gold medal.
The United States, a perennial powerhouse in international basketball, lost its swagger four years ago, when the Americans finished preliminary play at 3-2 and then were forced to settle for a bronze medal after losing to Argentina in the semifinals.
Bryant and the others say this Olympiad will be different when the team plays in Beijing.
“What we have is a determination to win,” Bryant said after the first day of practice at Valley High. “We have guys who work extremely hard, play hard, play well together and go out there and do what we do best.”
Bryant has put aside the Lakers’ loss to Boston in the NBA Finals and re-ignited his passion for the sport he dominated this past season. He said he is looking forward to the competition and pressure the United States faces heading into the Olympics.