Mike Krzyzewski, historic coach of the United States, revealed the order of the NBA legend. “Kobe knew that to win gold we had to beat Argentina,” he recalled.
Mike Krzyzewski gathers thousands of anecdotes with the best basketball players in the world and now is the time to reveal the one that most marked him with respect to Kobe Bryant, the legend of the NBA and the United States National Team, who died earlier this year when the helicopter that transported him with his daughter Gianna. What did the “Coach K”? When Kobe wanted to destroy Argentina and Manu Ginobili in particular.
Coach of the most prestigious Duke university no less than since 1980, the Coach K is best known in Argentina for having been the coach who led to the recovery of the Dream Team after the slaps the Golden Generation gave him in the early 2000s.
“We were starting to build a culture in USA Basketball. Him (for Kobe), Chauncey Billups Y Jason Kidd were added as veteran leaders for LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and those great guys, “recalled the coach, referring to what happened in 2008.
“We were preparing for (the Olympics in) Beijing and I was with my staff In Las Vegas. It was two days before the players joined and Kobe knocked on my door. He asked me to speak in private, “added Krzyzewski on the player’s podcast. J.J. Redick.
“‘I need to ask you a favor’, he told me. ‘I want to mark the best perimeter of each rival’. He was the best player in the NBA, the scorer. But he asked me for that favor. He had the same eyes, the same look as Michael Jordan. He leaned forward and said: ‘Coach, I promise I will destroy them’“the coach recalled.
In that edition of the Games, the United States wanted to recover the gold that another country took from it for the first and only time since the NBA began to play in the national team. That country had been Argentina, four years earlier, in Athens 2004.
“Kobe knew that to win gold we had to beat Argentina, either in the semifinal or the final. And he wanted to mark Ginobili. Believe me, he already knew and was preparing for it. It set a precedent for the team, “he continued.
Indeed, the omens were fulfilled: the Dream Team crushed Australia in the quarterfinals and the Golden Generation it just beat Greece, so they had to crash in the semi-final of the Olympic tournament.
“We were winning by 20 points when Ginobili got hurt,” the coach recalled. “So you thought: ‘Well now we’re going to win by 40’. And it became a 6-point match, all because (Kobe) was no longer interested. That’s how he was, God bless him, “he said.
Indeed, the first quarter of that match ended 30-11 against Argentina, which had to resign itself to playing without its ace of spades due to an ankle injury, which it suffered when only six minutes into the match.
And indeed, as Krzyzewski well recalled, the Golden Generation came to cut and be 8 points ahead. In fact, he closed the first half losing “only” by 9 (40-49).
Bryant’s scoring figures revealed the defensive emphasis he had adopted, as well as the probable loss of interest referred to by his former coach: on that day of Friday, August 22, 2008, the sadly deceased guard scored “barely.” 12 points.
The United States took the game 101-81 and eventually regained the gold medal by beating Spain in a great game. Argentina, how to forget it, won a gilt bronze after beating Lithuania 87-75.