Kobe Bryant said he is not pushing to play on the US Olympic team next year in the Rio Olympics, but the retiring Los Angeles Lakers guard on Monday said it would make a “beautiful” ending to his 20-year career.
The 37-year-old guard, a five-time NBA champion and gold medal winner at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, announced last month this would be his final NBA campaign after a historic career.
After battling nagging injuries for years, Bryant is fit, but the Lakers are in rebuilding mode and at 4-23 have the second-worst record in the NBA.
Missing the playoffs could leave Bryant rested and in form to become the first man in Olympic history to win three basketball gold medals, should he earn a spot on the two-time defending champions US squad.
“It’s not something I’m absolutely pressing for, but being part of the Olympic experience is a beautiful thing,” Bryant said. “It would be a beautiful thing to finish my career playing internationally, but that being said, we will see how it goes.”
LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams would also have the chance for an unprecedented men’s Olympic hat-trick at Rio, but for Bryant it would be a golden farewell.
“I try to look at my legacy as much as how do I impact the future, not where do I rank among the best players all time,” Bryant said when asked by reporters where he fell among NBA icons.
“It’s a moot point and for me it’s pretty much of a shallow argument. It’s how do I impact the generation of players coming in by what I have done. I think it has impacted the generation coming in a big way and they will pass that along to the next generation to come,” Bryant added.
Bryant, a 17-time NBA All-Star, was speaking ahead of his record-setting 16th career appearance in a Christmas NBA matchup, the Lakers hosting the rival Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. He is the all-time leader in scoring for games on the holiday.
Bryant has been nagged by injuries in recent seasons and is struggling with a sore right shoulder. He is averaging 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game this season for the Lakers, compared with career averages of 25.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Bryant said he expects the megastar trend of the NBA to continue in the wake of Michael Jordan, LeBron James and himself, saying: “I think there’s going to be a player in the next 10 years that’s going to rise above it all.”
Bryant, who spent some of his youth in Italy, said he plans to be a global ambassador for the sport, naming Singapore and Africa as two of his planned destinations.
“I definitely plan on helping the game spread and helping kids all around the world understand all that surrounds the game and its potential,” Bryant said. “I look forward to visiting places like Africa and teaching the game.”
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