It shouldn’t be a surprise that Team USA won the gold medal in the London Games, but it is a little surprising that it will be the last Olympic Games that Kobe Bryant participates in.
Team USA defeated Spain 107-100 to earn the gold medal in men’s basketball for the second consecutive Olympic Games. Team USA had great performances from Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Bryant in the finale as well as throughout pool play and the knockout stage.
Durant, James and Paul, among others, should all be back for Team USA’s chance for a three-peat in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but Bryant won’t be.
“This is it for me,” Kobe told Craig Sager after the victory via NBC Olympics. “Four years is a long time. These young guys [Durant and James] will probably give it a go in Rio and I might be there to support them.”
"USA Basketball will look to the future now," writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has also coached what could be his final Olympic matchup, but the biggest loss will be Kobe.
Bryant has been the veteran leader of Team USA during these Olympic Games and a big part of their success in the past. During Team USA’s undefeated run in the London Games, Kobe averaged 12.1 points per game and came up huge in the quarterfinal victory over Australia.
In that game, Bryant was cold in the first half and then caught fire early in the second to finish with a team-high 20 points. Bryant scored 13 points in the semifinals against Argentina and then had 17 in the gold medal match on Sunday against Spain.
The gold medal is Bryant’s second as a professional basketball player, the other coming four years ago in the Beijing Games. During Team USA’s run there, Bryant averaged 15 points per game and was essential in their quarterfinal victory over Australia when he scored 25 points.
Bryant will turn 34 later this month and will be 37 when Team USA’s next plays in the Olympics. As he said, four years is a long time.
There’s little reason to believe that Bryant wouldn’t be just as dominant as he’s been in four years. He’s one of the best basketball players and many others have played until they’re 40. "Although FIBA doesn’t appear to want to make Olympic competition 23-and-under yet," as Zillgitt writes,"it may be a good time to leave."
Bryant will leave the London Games as one of the best Olympic basketball players to ever play for Team USA. Maybe he changes his mind or maybe Sunday was the last time we ever see Kobe sport red, white and blue. Regardless of his decision, he’s certainly made quite an impact.