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Bryant has integrated his vast skills into a team format that has led to four NBA titles and one gold medal as a member of the 2008 Summer Olympics U.S.A. Men’s Basketball Team.
I sat in an interview session in Beijing at the start to the 2008 Olympics and Bryant joked about the seriousness of the game. He said, “If we do not win the Olympic gold, I may emigrate. I’ll be an Italian. You’ll be calling me Kobe Giovanni.”
I asked Bryant how the Gold medal compared to the NBA championships.
“It is not even close,” Bryant responded. “The NBA titles are great and important, but it is regional. In the Olympics you are playing for your country and competing against the entire world community. Standing on the Gold medal podium was the greatest feeling in my life.”
I, like Bryant, admire the Olympics for all that it is suppose to be — a collective anointing of the world community in a spirit of peace and athletics.
Bryant has had the dream season happen to him, winning the Olympics and then the NBA title.
“Yeah, I sit back sometimes and reflect about it all,” he said. “It was all like a dream. Yeah, I had the vision, but having it become a reality was unbelievable. Everyone wants to be the best and that is what we all shoot for every year, but when it happens like it did for me, you just get humbled and thankful it is really real.”
Many times in NBA history, defending champions experience a letdown, but Bryant believes it will not happen to these Lakers.
“Pau (Gasol), Lamar (Odom), Andrew (Bynum) and adding Ron (Artest) to the mix I think has elevated this team,” Bryant said. “We may not win it all, but we sure have the talent and coach (Phil Jackson) to make a real run at it. But make no mistake about it, our goal its to win another title.”
Bryant is getting older in the NBA “Star Wars,” but don’t tell him that.
“I feel I’m a better player that I’ve even been,” he stated. “I’m more mature and I’ve learned a lot about people and myself. I think the process has been all for the good. I know I’m a better person and a better teammate. I know I do not have to score 30 points every night and I realize there will be up and downs, but I’m mentally ready for whatever.”
I predicted that Boston would win the 2010 NBA title, but Bryant and the Lakers are positioned to make my prognostication wrong.
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