Kobe Bryant
Getty Images

Kobe Bryant almost made 2000 Olympic team

Leave a comment

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

Justin Morneau nixes Olympic baseball qualifying return

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Justin Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP with the Minnesota Twins, was taken off Canada’s Olympic baseball qualifying roster before he would have played his first competitive game in more than two years.

Morneau, 38, experienced an unspecified setback in training and was replaced on Canada’s roster for next month’s Premier12. The global tournament marks the first opportunity for many world baseball powers to qualify for the sport’s return to the Olympics.

Morneau never played in the Olympics before baseball was cut from the Games after 2008; active MLB players have never competed in the Games. But he was on Canada’s roster at all four World Baseball Classics from 2006 through 2017.

At November’s Premier12, the top nation from North and South America will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Japan and Israel are already qualified. Those that do not qualify will get another chance next year.

Morneau could become the second Major League Baseball MVP to play Olympic baseball as a medal sport. The other was Jason Giambi, who made the U.S. team in 1992, the same summer he was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Athletics.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Joe Girardi replaced as U.S. baseball manager by World Series champion

Kolohe Andino is first U.S. Olympic surfing qualifier; Kelly Slater faces last chance

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kolohe Andino is the first American to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut, which leaves one spot left for 47-year-old Kelly Slater to chase at the final contest of the season.

Andino, a 25-year-old Californian whose first name means “rascal” in Hawaiian, clinched his place in Tokyo on Friday at the penultimate stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour in Portugal. He is ranked fifth in the world, trailing a trio of Brazilians.

One more American man will join Andino on the Olympic team. It will be one of Slater, the 11-time world champion, John John Florence, the 2016 and 2017 World champion, and rising 22-year-old Hawaiian Seth Moniz.

Slater was handed a golden opportunity to qualify when Florence announced in early July that he tore an ACL for the second time in 13 months. Florence had won two of the first five events this season.

Slater has been chasing the sidelined Florence in the standings ever since. But it has not been easy.

Slater hasn’t made the quarterfinals in any of his last seven contests going into December’s finale — the prestigious Billabong Pipeline Masters on the North Shore of Oahu.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said in July, noting a back injury. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, who won the Pipe Masters seven times between 1992 and 2013, must reach the quarterfinals at this year’s event to have any chance of passing Florence to qualify for the Olympics.

Complicating matters: Florence said in August it was his “goal to get better for Pipeline in case I have to come back and compete and gain points,” according to ESPN.com. If Florence does return for the December contest, and makes the quarterfinals, Slater could only pass him with a victory.

Moniz goes into the finale ranked one spot behind Slater, meaning he, too, can grab that second and final Olympic spot with a win or a runner-up.

Slater, who turns 48 on Feb. 11, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, according to the OlyMADMen.

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!