Kobe Shows Why He’s Kobe as U.S. ambushes Australia
- Updated: August 8, 2012
By: Kels Dayton
He looked old, tired, and ready for summer vacation. There were times during these 2012 Olympic Games when Kobe Bryant probably would have rather been on the beach, re-charging, instead of bowling over waiting defenders and getting called for the charge.
Bryant was slumping like we aren’t used to seeing him slump–bricking jumpers and looking like an old man with the chills, covered in warmups at the end of the bench.
Kobe shot just 1 for 7 against Lithuania (6 points) and 3-for-10 against Argentina (11 points). At one point, Kobe had missed 19 of 23 shots.
In the first half of the United States’ win-or-go-home quarterfinal game against Australia, Bryant went 0-for-3 from the floor and picked up two fouls. He even fouled up a three-on-two fast break in which he, LeBron and Durant were the three, running into an Australian defender and being called for the charge.
It appeared as though these weren’t going to be his Olympics, much in the way the ’92 Games weren’t the greatest exhibition of Larry Bird’s talents. (Bird was hobbled by a bad back and retired soon after).
But then, in a flash, in one of those patented Team USA outbursts, Kobe reminded us all why he’s Kobe.
With the U.S. leading 67-58, midway through the third quarter, Chris Paul dashed into the paint and found Bryant for a wide-open three. He drilled it. Seconds later, Bryant jumped in front of a David Barlow pass, then chased it into the corner, stopped, pulled up, and drained another triple.
Then, midway through the fourth with the U.S. up 93-78, LeBron James ripped down a rebound from under the rim and raced up-court like a rabid thoroughbred. He found Bryant in the corner, who pump-faked, sent Patrick Mills flying through the air, and knocked down another one.
On the next possession, Bryant jab-stepped and dropped another three right in Joe Ingles’ face.
On the next possession, LeBron saved an errant Kevin Love outlet pass, feeding the ball right into Kobe’s hands and setting him up for another easy, pull-up triple.
On the next possession, LeBron stole the ball from poor Joe Ingles, looked up and zipped an outlet pass right to (who else) Kobe, who pulled up again, and found nylon again.
When it was finally over, Bryant had nailed six straight three-pointers, turning a closer-than-expected game into a United States whitewash. Team USA won, 119-86. Bryant finished with 20 points.
“Somebody made him mad. I could see it in his eyes,” said Kevin Durant. “I kind of wanted him to turn it on and he did.”
Carmelo Anthony said that it was he who got Kobe going. “I kind of knew what button to push with him,” Anthony said. “I was talking to him at halftime and in the third quarter and I guess I pushed the button,” he said.
Kobe told NBC’s Craig Sager after the game that he used halftime to make himself angry. He wouldn’t say what it was, but said he was “livid” about the semifinal matchup with Argentina on Friday.
Maybe it’s just because old men are cranky. Then again, maybe, just maybe, Kobe is back.