Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Images

Kobe Bryant tries to coax Michael Phelps to unretire (video)

Leave a comment

Not even Kobe Bryant could entice Michael Phelps to get back in the competition pool.

Bryant, a two-time Olympic champion, egged on Phelps while presenting the female athlete of the year award at USA Swimming’s Golden Goggles Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday night.

“Since it never gets old, would you like, just one more time?” Bryant told Phelps on stage (at 68:20 mark here). “Not me. You. You’re in much better shape than I am, dude. You can do it one more time.”

Phelps, as he has done for the last year, dismissed it.

“I’d rather be sitting in the stands during the next one and watching all of you,” Phelps said to the crowd, many of whom were active swimmers.

“All right, then I can save you a seat,” Bryant responded. “Just let me wear one of those medals.

“I got distracted by the gold medals, man. I’m wondering how he puts 28 [Olympic medals] on. I have no idea how that works. It’s crazy to me.”

The retired Lakers star got a first-hand look at an in-his-prime Phelps as a spectator at the 2008 Olympic swimming venue, the Water Cube.

“After seeing my first race in Beijing, I was hooked,” Bryant said.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ledecky wins race by 54 seconds, breaks record

Watch Kobe Bryant close the LA 2024 Olympic bid presentation to IOC

Leave a comment

LA 2024 turned to one of the most clutch athletes in Los Angeles history as the final voice in its bid presentation to the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday.

That would be retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and double Olympic gold medalist.

Bryant was not with the bid presentation team in Lausanne, but he starred in the final pre-recorded video shown to IOC members during a 50-minute presentation.

IOC members later voted unanimously to approve awarding the 2024 and 2028 Olympics to LA and Paris later this summer, should the IOC and both cities come to an agreement on who hosts in which year.

“There are so many different cultures represented here, so many different ethnicities represented here. LA can be anything you want it to be,” Bryant said to open a two-minute video, adding later, “It’s an opportunity to learn no matter where you look.”

And then, Bryant’s final words as the video closed and IOC members began applauding: “To have the Olympics here and to have so many different cultures represented would be a beautiful story to tell.”

Bryant joined the LA 2024 Board of Directors and Athletes’ Advisory Committee two weeks ago. He had previously participated in LA 2024 promotional videos more than one year ago.

The last U.S. Olympic bid, Chicago for 2016, flew in President Barack Obama as its closer at an IOC session in Copenhagen in 2009 (video here). Chicago was eliminated that day in the first round of voting among four finalist cities. Rio eventually won.

Granted, Tuesday was under different circumstances as IOC members were not yet voting on which city gets the 2024 Olympics. They may not vote at all as LA, Paris and the IOC are due to negotiate to determine if one city is willing to bow out for 2024 and take the 2028 Games.

Paris 2024’s final speaker in its presentation Tuesday was triple Olympic canoe champion Tony Estanguet, a co-bid leader. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke immediately before Estanguet.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Dr. Dre joins LA 2024

25 years ago: Magic Johnson says, ‘Don’t count me out for Olympics,’ after HIV

Getty Images
Leave a comment

On Nov. 7, 1991, Magic Johnson told the world he was HIV positive and that he was retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers, but Johnson did not mention the Olympics in that tear-filled press conference room.

Reports at the time assumed Johnson would be off the Dream Team, citing Lakers team physician Dr. Michael Mellman saying he shouldn’t participate.

USA Basketball said it had not heard from Johnson before the announcement or in the first few days afterward.

But a week later, Johnson urged Sports Illustrated readers not to close the book on his basketball career. The Barcelona Olympics eight months later meant that much to him:

“Don’t count me out for the ’92 Olympics in July,” Johnson wrote in the Nov. 18, 1991, magazine issue, whose contents were published by media Nov. 12. “If I’m healthy, I might very well be on the floor for the opening tap in Barcelona. I agreed to play in the Olympics because I wanted to be there for my country, something I’d never been able to do before. I wanted to play on the same team as Michael [Jordan] and Larry [Bird], something that would give me the kind of high that … man! I get goose bumps just thinking about what it would be like to be on the floor with those guys.

And I want to bring back the gold medal. I’ve accomplished everything in this game — from a team perspective and individually. I’ve won championships in high school, college and the pros. And I’ve won every major award there is. But I don’t have an Olympic gold medal. I want it. God willing, I’ll get it.”

On that same Tuesday, five days after Johnson’s HIV announcement, USA Basketball said it would “be happy to have him” remain on the roster if doctors cleared him.

“We’ve been given some indication today that he’s going to keep that option open,” then-USA Basketball president Dave Gavitt said, according to The Associated Press, saying that the information came to him “third-hand,” rather than from Johnson himself.

Johnson had been the first player named to the Dream Team as part of a 10-player announcement on NBC on Sept. 21. Two more players to complete the 12-man roster would be named later, at least one of which being a collegian.

After Johnson’s HIV announcement, media speculated that Johnson could be replaced on the Dream Team by longtime friend Isiah Thomas, the glaring omission from the initial 10-player list. Thomas’ coach on the Detroit Pistons, Chuck Daly, would be the Dream Team coach.

But USA Basketball said that any potential replacement would not be named until April 1992.

“All of this is very premature,” selection committee chairman C.M. Newton said, according to the AP. “We’ve not talked to Earvin or to his doctor or anybody. … As far as we’re concerned, he’s still part of the Olympic team.”

We know the rest of the story. Johnson made his return to the court at the All-Star Game on Feb. 9, 1992, taking MVP honors. He remained on the Olympic team, despite some opposition, notably from the Australians.

“It was therapy for me,” Johnson said in a 2012 NBA TV documentary. “I needed that in the worst way.”

MORE: Five Olympic questions with Larry Bird