When Kobe Bryant announced his retirement last fall, every basketball fan in the world planned for the night of April 13, when the Lakers played the Utah Jazz and when The Mamba threw on the purple and gold for the final time. Kobe didn't disappoint, dropping a staggering 60 points in a career-ending performance for the ages.
At the same time, there was thought that while the game against the Jazz was his last with the Lakers, there was a chance he could extend his career another few months and try to win one last gold medal with Team USA basketball in Rio this summer.
It was a reasonable question to ask at the time, and although it never came to fruition, the conversation of 'Kobe' came up with Mike Krzyzewski on Tuesday at Team USA mini-camp. There, Coach K was asked the simple question: What if Kobe had wanted to play for Team USA this summer?
His answer (via ESPN) was nearly perfect. And absolutely hysterical.
"The very first thing I would say is 'Take a look at the tape of the game and see if that's the one you want to go out on. Let's talk after.' And he probably wouldn't call... He wouldn't be able to take 50 shots here."
Let's be real here, for all the crap we give Krzyzewski and Duke during college basketball, we also can't deny that that was a pretty good answer. The best part is that the comment starts with some smart, sage basketball wisdom ... and then ends with Coach K dropping the comedic hammer. Excellent work, coach. Excellent.
At the same time, Coach K did admit that the idea of Kobe playing in Rio was something that was seriously discussed. Eventually, though, Kobe said no, and that was the end of the conversation.
"When we were going through the pool we did check to make sure he had retired and he said to Jerry (Colangelo) he had. He's still part of our program. When you have a guy who is a two-time gold medal winner and one of the great players of all-time you would always extend the courtesy 'Are you sure you want to be here?' or whatever. He said 'Thank you, but no.' Once you stop playing, it's tough. This is a really high level. It's not worth the grind. He could not have been more supportive."
From there Coach K continued, expanding on just how important Kobe was to Team USA basketball in general, and what he means to the program overall.
"This whole thing wouldn't have started the way it did without him. With just under nine minutes to go in Beijing against Spain, it's a two-point game and we're in a timeout and he took over and so did Dwyane Wade. That's why I'm still coaching. Believe me, I recognize those moments."