Kobe Bryant and his Team USA teammates celebrated winning gold medals against Spain to close out the men's Olympic basketball tournament. After playing in Beijing in 2008 and now London, Kobe Bryant ends his Olympic career having helped rejuvenate Team USA at the Olympic games.
According to ESPN LA's Arash Markazi, Bryant is ready to end his Olympic career.
Kobe Bryant: "This is it for me. Four years is all long time. These young guys will give it a go in Rio & I might be there to support them."
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) August 12, 2012
After the embarrassment of the 2002 FIBA World Championships and the 2004 Olympics, Kobe Bryant was one of the players that committed to USA basketball for the 2006 FIBA World Championships and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After declining an invite in 2002, Bryant's decision was part of a push to take international basketball more seriously.
Bryant missed the 2006 Worlds; but while the US finished third, the real goal was getting back to winning gold at the Olympics.
Bryant was a big part of the 2008 team that dominated throughout the tournament to reach the gold medal game against emerging international rival, Spain. With Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony emerging as stars, Bryant was a veteran presence and held his own amongst the younger guys.
In the closest game Team USA played in the tournament, Bryant finished second on the team with 20 points, helping the US to get back to get their golden ways as Team USA beat Spain 118-107.
In London, it was clear that Team USA was going to be LeBron's team. At times, it seemed Bryant struggled with not being the best player on the team, but Bryant remained committed to the ultimate goal.
While Bryant was unable to play the majority of the game, he scored in flurries, oftentimes setting the tone for Team USA. It was Bryant that came out scorching hot against Argentina, with a quick start that fueled Team USA's 26-point victory.
In the gold medal game against Spain, Bryant finished third on the team, with 17 points on five-of-10 shooting.
Bryant closes out his Olympic career with two gold medals in two Olympics. He played in 16 games, averaging 13.6 points per game.
While the stats don't jump off the page, Bryant's contributions to USA basketball are far more than just scoring points. His commitment to play and take the Olympics seriously aided a much-needed push towards other players doing the same.
As one of the biggest stars of basketball during the 2008 Olympics, Bryant helped big basketball in a big way. The legacy rests on LeBron James and Kevin Durant, as they will hopefully continue to accept the honor of playing for their country.
While a lot of critics see Bryant as ego-centric and self-centered, his commitment to Team USA paints a different picture. Two-time Olympic gold medalist is a nice addition to the resume, but competing for Team USA seemed to be more than just basketball for Bryant—as it should be.