Kobe Bryant
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Kobe Bryant almost made 2000 Olympic team

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One day after Kobe Bryant‘s breakout performance in the 2000 NBA Finals, it looked like a path opened for him to be named to the Sydney Olympic team.

On June 14, 2000, Bryant scored 28 points in Game 4 of the Finals against the Indiana Pacers, a 120-118 overtime victory.

Bryant rose to the occasion that night in what could be considered his star turn, after missing the second half of Game 2 and all of Game 3 with an ankle injury.

Shaquille O’Neal fouled out in overtime of Game 4, and Bryant took over as the team leader, including scoring the game-clinching basket.

The next day, Grant Hill said he would cede his spot on the 12-man U.S. Olympic roster due to his own ankle injury.

“It was tacitly acknowledged that Bryant was the top choice” to replace him in a USA Basketball conference call that day, according to the Associated Press. Bryant and Eddie Jones were named as possibilities by then-USA Basketball president Russ Granik.

Hill agreed on Bryant.

From the AP:

Asked if he knew who would replace him, Hill, still on crutches and wearing a walking boot to protect his ankle, said, “I don’t know. I think maybe Kobe Bryant, but I’m not sure.”

But three days after that, Bryant said he was “leaning toward not going” to Sydney if asked.

“There’s a lot I’d like to do this summer, spend time with my family, get married, relax,” Bryant said, according to the AP. “I haven’t given it that much thought, really. I’ll give it some more thought after the season.”

Then on July 17, it was made official.

Hill’s place was given to Shareef Abdur-Rahim, a forward who also had a wedding planned that summer ahead of the Olympics, which were held in the last two weeks of September.

If Bryant had made the Sydney Olympic team, he would have been (then) the youngest U.S. Olympic basketball player in the Dream Team era at 22 years old.

Anthony Davis, a 19-year-old in 2012, now holds that distinction.

Bryant also missed the Athens 2004 Olympics, due to his sexual assault case, and finally debuted at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

MORE: Kobe used gold medal to motivate Gasol in locker room

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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