KEY POINTS

  • Mike Krzyzewski recalled the time Kobe Bryant wanted to focus on defense for the 2008 Olympics
  • Krzyzewski revealed Bryant didn’t take a single shot during their Team USA practice
  • Bryant was amused when he was asked to shoot the ball instead of passing it during his final NBA game

Former Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski was told by the late Kobe Bryant that he was the only coach ever to ask him to shoot.

In a recent talk with "The Old Man and The Three" podcast, Krzyzewski, simply known as "Coach K," recalled a memory involving the late Lakers legend Bryant and his seemingly bizarre strategy for the 2008 Olympics.

According to the renowned coach, the team flew to Las Vegas days before heading to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics in order to build camaraderie. One day, the then-NBA superstar knocked on his door and asked to be the team’s defensive stopper instead of taking on offensive duties.

"Kobe said, 'coach, can I talk to you for a minute?'" Krzyzewski recalled. "We went to a private room, and he said, ‘I need to ask you a favor.’ I said, ‘yeah, what is it?’ He said, ‘I want to guard the best perimeter player on every team. I promise you. I’ll destroy him.'"

Before even arriving in Beijing, Bryant refused to shoot during practice sessions, something Coach K noticed and immediately addressed.

"Look, I’ve seen you destroy teams offensively, [Now] ‘Will you shoot the frickin’ ball?’ Kobe smiled. He wasn’t used to it," the coach recalled.

He further revealed that Bryant jokingly said, "You are the first coach to ever ask me to shoot."

Throughout his stellar basketball career, Bryant was known for his incredible work ethic. In fact, Krzyzewski said that weeks before the tournament even started, Bryant was already preparing for a potential match-up against Argentina’s Manu Ginobili, one of the most highly-rated guards competing at Beijing at the time.

Bryant’s hard work was not wasted as he turned out to be right about his prediction. Team USA faced Argentina in the semi-finals and Bryant was tasked to guard Ginobili, the player he spent weeks preparing for.

The two guards were intense early in the game, but it didn’t last long. Six minutes into the game, with Team USA up 12-4, Ginobili suffered an ankle injury and never returned to the court. As per Krzyzewski, neither did Bryant’s interest in playing the game.

"You’d think we’re going to win by 40 [points]," Krzyzewski said. "All of a sudden, it’s a six-point game because now [Bryant’s] he’s not interested anymore."

Team USA eliminated Argentina 101-81. But surprisingly, Bryant only scored 12 points in 32 minutes of play.

During his playing years, Bryant shot the basketball as often as he could, leading to some NBA fans accusing him of being a "ball hog." Many believed that Bryant should have passed the ball more frequently, and apart from Krzyzewski’s testimony, the only time the basketball icon was asked to shoot was during his final NBA game.

"The thing that had me cracking up all night long was the fact that I go through 20 years of everybody screaming, ‘pass the ball!'" Bryant said in his final game speech in 2016. "And on the last night they’re like, 'Don’t pass it!'"

Kobe Bryant Kobe Bryant and the Lakers have won seven of their last 10 games. Photo: Reuters