While Kobe Bryant and USA Basketball originally left the door open for the Black Mamba to suit up in red, white and blue for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the Los Angeles Lakers legend announced Saturday he has no plans to participate in international play this summer.
"I think it's the young guys' turn to go and play and perform," Bryant said, per Mike Trudell of Lakers.com. Bryant also told reporters he'd prefer to "support the players from afar," according to LakersNation.com's Serena Winters.
Kobe said he wants his final game to be in Lakers purple and gold, which will be against Utah at Staples Center in April, not for Team USA.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) January 17, 2016
The U.S. Olympic Team thanked Bryant for his contributions shortly after his announcement:
One of the most ferocious competitors in NBA history, the two-time gold medalist had previously expressed interest in returning to the Olympic stage despite being mired in a shooting slump.
"It would mean the world to me to be around those guys," Bryant told the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds in November. "I think to be able to have a chance to continue the relationship that I already have with most of those guys, talking and just kind of being around each other and understanding that this is it, it's just us being together, that would be fun."
But at 37 years old with injuries slowing him down—a sore Achilles has been bothering him recently—Bryant made the prudent decision to open the door for the game's younger stars to expand their international resumes this summer.
"I already let Jerry [Colangelo] and Coach K know that I physically can’t do it," Bryant said, according to NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper.
Along with Bryant, 2012 Olympic staples Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Deron Williams, Chris Bosh and Andre Iguodala figure to be non-factors in 2016.
Thus, the roster is ripe for turnover—especially on the wings. Not only is reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry a lock to earn a spot, but perimeter options such as Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Klay Thompson also figure to garner heavy consideration in the coming months.
The thought of watching Bryant ride off into the sunset with a third gold medal around his neck could have made for a magical midsummer moment, but his unselfish decision to let the Association's brightest young talent shine in his place is admirable.