Redeem Team Moments That Make Us Miss Kobe Bryant Even More

In 2008, the status of U.S. basketball had declined internationally. Typically dominant, the U.S. men's basketball team with Reggie Miller and Paul Pierce in the lineup finished sixth at the 2002 FIBA World Championship, as The Ringer notes. Per the official Olympics website, the U.S. men's basketball won a disappointing bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. For these reasons and more, expectations were high for the U.S. men's basketball team as they entered competition at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, as the Netflix documentary "Redeem Team" explains. (The trailer is on YouTube.)

Led by hall-of-fame retired Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski, one secret weapon the U.S. men's basketball team had that year was legendary Lakers small forward and shooting guard Kobe Bryant, with all-stars like Dwayne Wade and LeBron James by his side, as The Guardian reports. Bryant died in 2020 alongside his daughter and seven others in a helicopter wreck in Southern California (via Britannica). In telling the story of the U.S. men's basketball team at the 2008 Olympic Games, known as the "Redeem Team," which won gold that year, the Netflix documentary includes pivotal moments that could make basketball fans miss Bryant even more.

While players hit the Vegas strip, Bryant stayed behind to workout

As The Guardian notes, "Redeem Team" was directed by Jon Weinbach (per IMDb), producer of the hit ESPN 1997–98 Chicago Bulls documentary "The Last Dance" (also via IMDb). With Krzyzewski (Coach K) on board, in 2008 the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team entered training camp in Las Vegas to prepare for competition. After hard work all day on the court and in the gym, other players would hit the Vegas Strip in their off hours to take in the sights and sounds. Not Kobe Bryant, though, who stayed behind to log extra time working out.

That example set a high bar for what the team would accomplish once the games began in Beijing. On that note, Weinbach says that in 2008, Bryant was not quite the superstar he would one day become, but Weinbach adds (via The Guardian), "[T]he model he set was the work ethic. It's encapsulated in the story of him being up at 4:35 in the morning and working out as these guys were coming back from the club. It was an undeniable example. And it just set off a whole different kind of mojo in motion."

Bryant set the tone early

In 2008, the NBA was an international organization with players from all over the world. One such example was a Spanish basketball star, center Pau Gasol. During the NBA season, Gasol played alongside Bryant in Los Angeles with the Lakers. In the 2008 Olympic Games, though, Gasol (pictured with Bryant, above) played for the Spanish team, expected by many to be the U.S. team's closest competition for gold, according to NBC Sports. Likely aware of this, Bryant stepped up to Gasol early on when the U.S. and Spanish teams first squared off in Beijing.

As "Redeem Team" explains, in one early play Bryant ran right through Gasol's chest, knocking the more than 7-foot-tall center to the ground, according to The Guardian. With that hard foul, Bryan seemed to say that though he and Gasol were teammates and friends off the court, at the Olympics, things were different, and the contact was intentional. Bryant announced to his team in the locker room he planned to do it, as Bryant's Olympic teammates LeBron James and Dewayne Wade reveal in the Netflix "Redeem Team" documentary (via NBC Sports).