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Kobe Bryant: The 1992 Dream Team days are over

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Kobe Bryant said the U.S. men’s basketball team faces a huge challenge and dismissed any excuse of the top NBA superstars passing on the World Cup, noting that the 2008 Redeem Team had a tough final against Spain.

“It’s not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the U.S.,” Bryant said between semifinals at the FIBA World Cup, where the U.S. lost in the quarterfinals and in the consolation round for its worst-ever tournament result. “The rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time. It’s to the point where us in the U.S. are going to win some, going to lose some. There’s just great basketball being played. Whether it’s Redeem [team] two, no matter what team it is, it’s not going to be easy.”

As for just two 2019 NBA All-Stars and one player with Olympic experience suiting up for Team USA this summer?

“I hear that a lot – did we send the best possible team that could come out here?” Bryant said. “The Redeem Team, we needed a hell of a fourth quarter to beat Spain. … Put the best players that you think are going to make the best U.S. team out on the floor – it’s still not going to be a cake walk. The days of 1992 are over.”

Bryant and the Redeem Team beat Spain 118-107 in the Beijing Olympic final, though the lead was as small as two in the fourth quarter.

The Redeem Team was a product of a USA Basketball overhaul following defeats at the 2002 World Championship and 2004 Olympics. With Mike Krzyzewski at the helm, the U.S. lost at the 2006 World Championship, taking bronze, before reeling off five straight titles between the Olympics and worlds from 2008 through 2016.

A key for the Redeem Team was the braintrust of USA Basketball making it a three-year commitment to be a member of that Beijing 2008 team (though Bryant missed 2006 Worlds due to knee surgery). By 2008, Bryant said he valued Olympic gold more than an NBA title.

Krzyzewski stepped down after Rio, where the U.S. had a pair of three-point wins after some NBA superstars decided not to play. Gregg Popovich, an assistant on those 2002 and 2004 teams that lost, succeeded him for this Olympic cycle.

Of this year’s dropouts, Bryant said, “Some of those guys haven’t had the opportunity to play for the United States, so I’m sure if their health allowed them to, they certainly would’ve been over here playing,” according to ESPN. “But a lot of those guys are coming off of serious injuries and trying to figure out how to navigate through that to get healthy again and back to 100 percent. Other guys are moving, moving to different cities and getting their families to settle in. It’s a big adjustment for families, so I certainly understand it.”

NBC Olympics senior researcher Rachel Thompson contributed to this report from China.

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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Best Actress shouts out Chloe Kim as Olympians take over Oscars

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“I think this is what Chloe Kim must have felt like after doing back-to-back 1080s.”

Best Actress winner Frances McDormand capped an Academy Awards night with several Olympian attendees, including the first Olympic gold medalist to win an Oscar, by shouting out the teenage halfpipe champion.

Kim watched.

In other Olympian Oscar news, Kobe Bryant became the first gold medalist to win an Oscar (“Dear Basketball,” based on Bryant’s retirement announcement, for Best Animated Short Film), according to @OlympicStatman.

Norwegian Johann Olav Koss, the speed skater who won three Olympic gold medals with three world records at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games, held the Best Documentary Oscar won by “Icarus,” the film about Russian doping and whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov.

Best Supporting Actress went to Allison Janney, who played the mother of disgraced two-time Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the dark comedy biopic “I, Tonya.”

PyeongChang Olympians in attendance included Lindsey VonnMirai Nagasu and Adam RipponGus Kenworthy attended the Elton John AIDS Foundation viewing party along with Miley Cyrus.

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HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 04: Adam Rippon (L) and Mirai Nagasu attend the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 04: Lindsey Vonn attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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

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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.

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