Kobe Bryant: "We Understand the Significance and Importance of Representing our Country"NBC Sports' Cris Collinsworth did an interview with Kobe Bryant that aired during NBC's Friday night Olympics telecast. Here is a transcript:
Collinsworth: "Big picture for USA Basketball: Last couple Olympics--that you were not a part of--maybe the reputation wasn't the greatest in the world. This is a different team, isn't it?"
Bryant: "It is a different team. I think it's a different attitude. I think we understand the significance and importance of representing our country. I think that was something that was maybe missing on those past teams."
Collinsworth: "Tell the story of when you got your USA uniform."
Bryant: "I had goosebumps and I actually just looked at it for a while. I just held it there and laid it across my bed and just stared at it for a few minutes. As a kid growing up, this is the ultimate, ultimate in basketball."
Collinsworth: "Where does the patriotism come from inside of you? Historically, what is it?"
Bryant: "Our country, we believe, is the greatest country in the world and it has given us so many great opportunities. It's just a sense of pride that you have to say, 'You know what? Our country's the best.'"
Collinsworth: "Is that a cool thing to say in this day and age, that you love your country and that you are fighting for the red, white and blue? It seems sort of like a day gone by."
Bryant: "No, it's a cool thing for me to say. I feel great about it and I'm not ashamed to say it. This is a tremendous honor."
Collinsworth: "There have been some of the most spectacular plays that I've ever seen come out of this."
(As Collinsworth said those words, NBC showed the highlight from Team USA's 92-69 win over Greece when Dwyane Wade threw a lob to Bryant, who caught the ball with both of his hands even with the top of the square and threw down a two handed dunk)
Bryant: "You know, we get a kick out of that. That is what gets us going, when we make plays like that. We acknowledge each other and our team seems to feed off of that."
(Cut to footage of Michael Phelps at the pool, with a shot of Bryant in the stands applauding)
Bryant: "Meeting Michael Phelps and Dara Torres the first night that we got here was fun. I was planning on meeting them but also having an opportunity for me--I'm a huge soccer fan--and one of my favorite players in the world is Lionel Messi, who plays for Argentina. He's just a phenom. He's 21 years old and already he's one of the best players in the world. Moments like that are just cool. They're cool moments."
Collinsworth: "I think one of my favorite moments was listening to you talking with the Italian television crew. We did an interview and then you go right next door and do the Italian one. I understand that you speak Spanish as well. You're like a one man UN here, it's unbelievable."
Bryant (laughs): "It's a blast. It's the first time my teammates have ever really heard me speak another language. They're like, 'Damn, how many languages do you speak?' It's been fun."
Collinsworth: "A Renaissance man--there you go."
After NBC ran the interview footage, they cut back to a live shot of Collinsworth, who was in the studio with Bob Costas. Collinsworth said, "You know, every once in a while somebody will make a comment to me about young people in this country today but these young Olympians have represented our country so magnificently that I think we should all be very proud."
Kobe Bryant is not a popular figure in some circles and perhaps, as Collinsworth suggested, patriotism is considered passe, but I much prefer the attitude that Bryant is not only expressing verbally but also demonstrating on the court to what we saw from the 2002, 2004 and 2006 editions of Team USA; many of the players from those squads gave lip service to patriotism and to playing together as a team but the results on the court showed that those were empty words--and we have heard players like Wade, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony candidly admit that the previous teams did not have the right mindset about competing for their country, nor did they adequately understand or respect the FIBA teams that they faced. That all changed last summer when Bryant and Jason Kidd joined the team and I am proud of the way that Team USA has played and conducted itself starting in the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament and continuing through this year's pre-Olympic exhibition tour and the first three preliminary round games in the Olympics.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:50 AM