Remembering 10 Games Kobe Bryant Made USA Basketball Fans Smile
What better way to remember and pay tribute to Kobe Bryant, one of basketball’s biggest legends, than with a look back at No. 10's top 10 games of his USA Basketball international career.
Bryant held an allegiance to the USA Men’s National Team from 2007-12 that helped dawn a new dynasty. While it was our story of redemption, we cannot help but thank and remember Bryant, who started all 36 games along the way.
Playing in three international competitions, including two Olympics, and also as part of two national team exhibition tours, altogether he played on five USA Basketball teams and compiled a record of 36-0, winning three gold medals.
It's a tough assignment selecting Bryant's top 10 USA games, but in addition to his performance, the importance of the competition and the game were factored in the decision.
Bryant will always be remembered for the numerous memorable moments he created in the NBA and with USA Basketball. Enjoy the look back.
- Video Interview With Kobe Bryant About His Olympic Experiences
- Video of Kobe Bryant's Top Five Olympic Plays
No. 1 - Bryant Helps USA Earn Redemption at 2008 Beijing Olympics
In his first Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Games, Bryant recorded 20 points, including several critical scores to help lead the U.S. to a hard fought 118-107 gold-medal victory against Spain.
In the fourth quarter of the tight gold medal game, the USA held a two-point lead with eight minutes remaining. Not to be denied his first Olympic gold medal, Bryant took over the game and in the final period accounted for 13 points, three assists and two crucial blocked shots that helped lead the USA to a 118-107 victory in what many consider is one of the best international basketball games of all time.
After Spain had cut the U.S. lead to two points in the fourth quarter, Bryant hit a jumper that ignited a 12-2 USA run that created some breathing space for the USA. When Spain crept back within five points with just over three minutes to play, Bryant dug in for his single-most iconic Olympic moment. A drive and skip pass by Dwyane Wade found Kobe on the left wing. With a right jab step, he created space from Spanish defender Rudy Fernandez, rose up and sank a 3-pointer while being fouled on the release. The U.S. bench stood with fists raised, while Kobe, putting one finger to his mouth served up an image for the ages – “shushing” the Spanish crowd.
“What you saw today was a team. Everybody wants to talk about NBA players being selfish and arrogant and being individuals,” Bryant said following the win. “Well, what you saw today was a team bonded together, facing adversity and coming out of here with a big win.
“It's an unbelievable feeling to win a gold medal for your country. I can't begin to describe to you the feeling we all feel right now.
"It’s a different feeling playing for your country. When we play in the NBA you’re playing for a particular city, a particular market. When you play for your country those lines all go away. We’re all together, we’re all playing for USA Basketball and it carries a great honor with that that goes beyond winning the NBA championship.”
Averaging 15.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists a game during the ’08 Summer Games, Bryant finished as the only USA player to score 20 or more points in multiple games.
No. 2 - Bryant Helps Lead USA Past Spain and to the 2012 Olympic Title, His Second Olympic Gold Medal
Thirty-three years old and the eldest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic basketball team, Bryant, appearing in a second-consecutive Olympics for the U.S., again played big when it counted most – a gold medal clash versus Spain.
Facing Spain in a second-consecutive Olympic gold medal game, Bryant scored 17 points (5-10 FGs, 3-7 3pt FGs, 4-5 FTs) and added two rebounds, two assists and one steal in 27 minutes of action in the USA’s 107-100 win in the 2012 Olympic gold medal game.
It was Bryant's 36th and final game in the USA's red, white and blue uniform.
Bryant found Tyson Chandler for the game's first score, then with Spain holding a 12-7 lead with 6:45 remaining in the opening quarter, Bryant posted eight quick points, including two 3-pointers, to lift the U.S. to a 15-12 lead.
The U.S. went on to lead 35-27 after the first quarter, 59-58 at halftime and 83-82 going into the fourth quarter. The U.S. expanded its lead into double digits in the fourth stanza before removing Bryant and the other starters to close out the game.
“It was very emotional,” Bryant recalled of his 2012 gold medal. “You just kind of think back on the journey, so to speak. Being here for your last go-round, wearing USA on your chest, it’s very emotional.
“You realize how fleeting time is, and it brings me great joy to be standing here at this point of my career. It will be exciting to look back at all the memories, this being one of them.”
No. 3 - Bryant Makes a Shining USA Basketball Debut
Although it was technically just a USA National Team intrasquad exhibition, it was Bryant’s first USA Basketball game, and wearing a blue No. 10 USA uniform, he shined brilliantly in the 2007 State Farm USA Basketball Challenge.
Offering basketball fans a taste of what was to come in his international career, Bryant helped lead the USA Blue Team to a come-from-behind 105-104 victory. He, recorded 26 points (10-22 FGs, 4-9 3pt FGs, 2-2 FTs), four rebounds, five assists and five steals in 31 minutes of action, and oh-yeah, made the game-winning basket in the closing seconds.
In additional to his loaded stat line, Bryant took over for the USA Blue squad in the final 1:47 and scored his team’s final seven points. Connecting on a 3-pointer to even the score 101-101, on the following possession he sank a jumper at 1:03 to push the Blue ahead 103-102. He capped the evening by draining the game-winner on a well-defended 14' jumper above the foul line with :06 left in the game.
“It's been a great couple of days. It's a start, we understand that it's a first step and obviously we still have a long way to go, but these couple of days were great to get familiar with one another and play within a system and a structure,” said Bryant following the game which was used to help prepare the team for the 2007 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
“As you saw today, everybody got a chance to see what we've been going through at practice for the last couple of days - it's extremely competitive, everybody still having a good time and enjoying themselves, but really going at each other, and I think that's really what's really going to make us better and help elevate our level.”
No. 4 - Bryant's Fast Start Leads USA To A Victory Over Argentina in 2007 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifier
Bryant hit his first three shots to get the Americans off to a quick start and finished the game with 27 points (10-15 FGS, 3-7 3pt FGs, 4-5 FTs) in 23 minutes as the USA topped previously unbeaten Argentina 91-76 in the final second round game of the 2007 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Accounting for 15 first-quarter points, Bryant helped the Americans quickly jump ahead of Argentina and roll to the victory. Hitting a jumper and back-to-back 3-pointers, Bryant scored the USA's first eight points in the game. Making three 3-pointers and shooting 6-of-8 from the field in the first quarter, Bryant single-handedly outscored Argentina in the quarter as the USA opened up a 28-13 lead. Leading comfortably 49-30 at halftime, and 73-52 after three quarters of play, the USA sailed in for the convincing win.
The 27-point performance tied Bryant with Carmelo Anthony for the fourth-most points in a game in U.S. men’s Olympic qualifying tournament history. His average of 15.3 points per game in 2007 ranks the sixth-most points averaged by a USA player in Olympic qualifying tournament history.
"It was a little stagnant at the start, and I came out and got hot early and we rode that for a little bit and helped us get off to a quick start,” Bryant said.
No. 5 - Bryant's First Quarter Explosion Helps USA Down Argentina In 2012 Olympic Semifinal
Facing international rival Argentina in the semifinals of the 2012 London Olympics, thanks to Bryant's fast start the United States rolled over Argentina 109-83 to earn a spot in the gold medal game.
Bryant paced the USA early, tallying 11 of his 13 points in the first quarter. Bryant added four rebounds and two steals in his 19 minutes of action in the win and shot 5-for-10 from the field, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range.
The USA came out firing and built an 18-6 lead thanks in part to Bryant, who sank three 3-pointers in the first 4:20 of the game. The USA finished the first quarter with a 24-19 advantage, led 47-40 at halftime and expanded its advantage to 74-57 by conclusion of the third period.
“We have guys on this team that can get blistering hot,” stated Bryant. “They get hot quick. Me, KD (Kevin Durant) and Melo (Carmelo Anthony) knocked down two shots each and all of a sudden, the floodgates opened. It feels like we can’t miss and it just seems like it happens instantaneously.”
No. 6 - Bryant's 25 Points Propels U.S. Over Australia in 2008 Olympic Quarterfinal
Bryant turned in a 25-point (10-16 FGs, 4-7 3pt FGs, 1-4 FTs), five rebounds, one assist, one blocked shot and one steal performance in 25 minutes of action in the USA’s 116-85 victory over Australia in quarterfinal action of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"Kobe had a great performance, and he came up when we needed it most, right at the start of the second half," said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski in the post-game press conference.
Bryant scored two baskets in a late second-quarter run to help the Americans open up a 55-43 lead at halftime and scored nine points in the first 3:30 of the third period to ignite a 14-point run by the U.S. and help the U.S. take a 69-43 lead and put the game away.
“We understand we are not going to break things open in the first period,” Bryant said. “We have to wear teams down. We come in waves. Usually in the second or third period is when we can bust things open.”
"He's always prepared, focused, he's always on, it's always on with Kobe, he's never off. He's that one guy on our team, and we have a lot of them, but he's that one guy on our team that sees the moment, that can take the knockout punches for anybody, he likes hitting the dagger, he's not afraid to take any shot, he's not afraid to guard anybody. And he's won championships, so he's been in big games before," LeBron James said of Bryant following the win.
No. 7 - Bryant Pours in 20 Second-Half Points to Power USA to Quarterfinal Win in 2012 Olympics
Bryant finished with 20 points, all of which came in the second half, and made four-straight 3-pointers in a 67-second span in the fourth quarter to help the U.S overpower Australia 119-86 in its 2012 Olympic quarterfinal game.
Bryant made 6-of-10 shots from 3-point and added three assists and two steals in his 20 minutes of action
Leading 56-42 at halftime, Australia opened the third quarter with an 11-0 scoring spree to close the gap to 56-53. Bryant connected on a pair of 3-pointers during a 16-5 USA run that pushed the lead to 14 points, 72-58.
Australia trailed 96-80 in the fourth quarter before Bryant completely put the game out of reach. Knocking in his first 3 of the final period at 5:50, he followed that up with 3s at 5:14, 4:57 and 4:43 to seal the win.
“On this team you really get a lot of easy shots because you play with a lot of really good players,” said Bryant. “I just found myself in a really good rhythm with some daylight to shoot the ball, and they were going in for me.”
No. 8 - Bryant Helps USA Past Argentina in Exhibition Victory In Barcelona
Twenty years after the 1992 USA Basketball Dream Team made its indelible impact on international basketball at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, USA Basketball's 2012 Men's National Team, wearing the 1992 USA Basketball throwback jerseys, returned to the same hardwood in Barcelona that the Dream Team stared on, and battled to a hard-fought 86-80 exhibition win over Argentina as Bryant finished with 18 points and four rebounds.
The USA sprinted ahead from the opening tip as a Bryant basket made it 8-0. Bryant added a 3, slammed home a dunk and drained another 3-pointer to score his 10th point and push the Americans ahead 19-3 with just 3:15 into the game.
Leading 31-16 after the first quarter, Argentina fought its way back into contention. The Americans led 47-40 at half and 72-61 heading into the final period. Holding onto a 78-74 lead with 2:50 to play, the USA finished strong to claim the 86-80 victory.
“It's tough. Argentina's a very good team, very tough-minded,” Bryant said. “They continue to play hard, and for us it was a big challenge to try to put the game away, we could just never do it.”
No. 9 - Bryant's 11-Consecutive Points in the Third Quarter Lead USA to Exhibition Victory Over Russia
After averaging 118 points a game in its first three exhibition outings, the 2008 USA Basketball Men’s National Team turned to Bryant’s offense and to team defense to earn an 89-68 victory over Russia in Shanghai, China.
With the USA leading 50-33 and 8:19 to play in the third quarter, Bryant, who was selected the Player of the Game by a media panel, scored the USA’s next 11 points on an assortment of dazzling moves, and by the quarter’s end, the USA owned a 71-51 lead.
“They had some gaps there and I just took advantage of them. The ball found me and I was able to make them pay,” said Bryant of his 11-straight third quarter points. “In that kind of situation where the game is kind of see-sawing back and forth, we have so many weapons – it could be LeBron, it could be D-Wade, one of us is going to kick into high gear.”
Bryant finished the day with 19 points (7-13 FGs, 2-6 3pt FGs, 3-4 FTs), one rebound, one assist and two steals in 28 minutes of action.
“They’re a physical team, they’re a big team, they did a good job on the offensive boards which kept us out of the open court for a little bit,” said Bryant. “But in the second half I thought we did a much better job being the initiators and playing with a bit more energy, whether we scored the ball or whether we got a defensive rebound, we played with more energy and pushed the ball up the floor.”
No. 10 - Bryant's 20 Points and Defense Lead to Convincing Win Over Brazil in 2007 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifier
In a game to determine Group B’s top seed for the second round of the 2007 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the United States knocked off Brazil convincingly, 113-76, as Bryant tallied 20 points (6-9 FGs, 3-6 3pt FGs, 5-6 FTs), two rebounds, two assists and one steal in 20 minutes.
Brazil's top scorer, Leandro Barbosa, was limited to four points as Bryant had the assignment of slowing the high-scoring guard, who entered the game averaging 27 points per game.
The United States held a 27-21 lead after the opening quarter, and with the North Americans holding a 37-32 advantage, Bryant drained a jumper to launch the USA on a game-sealing 20-6 scoring run. The U.S. led 57-38 at intermission and after Brazil tightened the score to 57-43 to start the third quarter, Bryant ignited a 17-0 USA run with back-to-back 3-pointers. The USA went on to outscore Brazil 39-11 in the third quarter to take a 96-49 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
“My role here is different here than it is with the Lakers,” Bryant said. “We have so many talented players and I don't have to score a lot of points. I just try to do the best I can defensively.”