We assumed that Kobe Bryant was going to have another chance to represent his country in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics before riding off into the sunset. It now seems, however, that the Laker legend will not be suiting up for Team USA in the tournament in Rio de Janeiro.
The Black Mamba announced Saturday that he has no plans to participate in the Olympics, telling reporters, “I think it’s the young guys’ turn to go and play and perform.” He also said that he prefers “support the players from afar.”
Mike Trudell of Lakers.com added via Twitter, "Kobe said he wants his final game to be in Lakers purple and gold, which will be against Utah at Staples Center in April, not for Team USA."
This is a dramatic change in tune for the former NBA MVP who, just a few months ago, was quoted saying, “It would mean the world to me to be around those guys,” in reference to the 2016 tournament. “I think to be able to have a chance to continue the relationship that I already have with most of those guys, talking and just kind of being around each other and understanding that this is it, it’s just us being together, that would be fun.”
Bryant, whose career has been plagued by multiple injuries for the last several seasons, has noticeably slowed down in his final season before retirement.
While the possibility of Bryant winning a record third gold medal in basketball would have made for an incredible story, the choice to let USA basketball usher in the new generation of young stars is an unselfish decision and speaks to Bryant's desire to move on to a new phase in his life.
Watch the iconic athlete discuss his life and career during the BET Experience Genius Talks, below: