If you have been watching the NBA at all this season, and particularly during these playoffs, you’ve probably heard how LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade all helped each other take their respective games to new heights this past offseason while playing together on the ‘Redeem Team’ in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. Most notably and perhaps most relevantly, MVP LeBron James saw what he had to do to keep up with Kobe Bryant and adjusted his work regiment accordingly. The results have been nothing short of stellar for all three individuals, which of course also means that the overall competitiveness in the Association is perhaps at an all time high, at least at the top. Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski was a big part of fostering that positive environment in China this summer and during the months leading up to the Games. Coach K joined KLAC in Los Angeles to talk about the book he has written (‘The Gold Standard‘) that chronicled the team’s and his personal adventures this past summer winning Gold in the Olympic Games.
Coach K began by filling in the audience about his book about the Olympic experience:
“Well the main thing is it’s got a great ending – we won the Gold Medal. So really, there’s no suspense there. But really, it’s the first time that the United States has had a National Team and had a three-year commitment, and just how all that started, what we tried to do to create a culture that would not only win a Gold Medal, but would win the respect of our country, and win the respect of the world. And to see these guys like LeBron James and Kobe and Dwayne Wade, and the rest of the guys, behind the scenes and how they developed as a group and their commitment. And my favorite chapter is the [one] that traces my relationship with Kobe over three summers, and LeBron, and Jason Kidd, who were our three leaders. So, it was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Any interesting stories about exactly how individuals on the Redeem Team showed their commitment to playing for their country in the 2008 Olympics?
“A great story about Kobe is the first time they went to be fitted for their USA uniforms. And they go individually at different times. And they have the uniform laid out for them and he just stands there and looks at USA and his name, the number. And all of a sudden, there’s an equipment person there, and Kobe starts crying. And the equipment person asks him what happened, did you just find out some bad news. And Kobe was like, man, you don’t understand, I’ve dreamed of playing for my country. This is a dream come true. Or for him telling me, Coach, I want to guard the best player on the perimeter of every team we play, and I promise you I’ll destroy him. In other words, I’ll play defense. You know, forget about offense. So, that type of commitment from all these guys, but especially when you’re super, super stars like Kobe – you know, everyone was going to look at Kobe and say, well, what is Kobe going to do. And what Kobe said was, look, I want to be like every one of you. I’ll do everything you want me to do to win. I’m all about winning. And that’s what he did, and I love him. And when it hit the fan in the last eight minutes of our Gold Medal game, the guy – all of them played great – but the guy who really above them was Kobe. I mean, he was at his best at the toughest time.”
Speaking of Kobe, how close exactly did Coach K get to accepting the Lakers job several years ago and coaching Kobe in the NBA?
“Well, I don’t reflect back because it was so intense and there was so much going on at that moment that you were lucky to have that opportunity. And it was fairly close because Mitch Kupchak did an amazing job – and has done an amazing job since then – and L.A. is a storied franchise and you’d have a chance to coach Kobe but at the end of the day, I really love coaching in college and coaching at Duke. But it was a really difficult decision and when you make decisions like that, it’s a disservice to Duke or wherever you made the decision to be looking back. You should only be looking in the windshield, not the rear view mirror.”