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.
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.