Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from the NBA last November, and officially withdrew himself from Olympic consideration in January. That meant his final game at the highest level (unless the struggling Lakers somehow made the playoffs) would be April 13.
Then Bryant went out and scored 60 points in his career finale. He was 37 years old playing his 20th season in the NBA, but he was still one of the rare few who could drop 60 in a game.
What if that sparked a thought in the ultra-competitive Kobe that he shouldn’t in fact call it a career? What if that incredible performance reignited a fire in Kobe and he wanted one last go?
The Olympics were coming up and he helped the previous two teams to gold medals. Then, as the NBA playoffs wore on, stars such as Steph Curry and LeBron James pulled out. Might that open a spot for Kobe?
The idea crossed the mind of U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski, but was quickly dismissed. Coach K’s thoughts courtesy of ESPN’s Arash Markazi:
Bryant was indeed huge for Team USA claiming gold in 2008. He hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of the gold-medal game against Spain, including a clutch four-point play with 3:10 to go, after which he held his finger to his lips to quiet the Spanish fans (scroll to the 33-second mark in the video here).
He was also a big part of the 2012 gold medal, but upon retiring from the NBA, Bryant realized it was also time to retire from international play and let the young guys take his spot.