Friday , Aug , 24 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Defensive Kobe Bryant Team USA’s Best Player?

But at the FIBA Americas Tournament, Bryant is dominating in a different way, controlling the game through his defense. This is significant. Fair or not, Bryant has often been criticized for shooting too much, and dismissing teammates like Lindsay Lohan dismisses rehab. The Bryant-bashers acknowledge his individual greatness, but then, in the same breath, question his commitment to team play …

The Los Angeles Times reports on Kobe Bryant emerging as Team USA’s star:

Winter, summer, in a Lakers uniform or that of the U.S. team, it’s still all Kobe, all the time. . . .

He’s not just a Lakers obsession, now he belongs to the world, or at least international basketball, and just in time with the U.S. expected to mop up the competition in FIBA’s Tournament of the Americas that begins today — We’re back! — if only because there isn’t any.

On the floor, this unofficially became another of Bryant’s teams in its televised intrasquad game when he shut down LeBron James at the end and hit the game-winning shot.

Off the floor, there was never a question with Kobe making his first public appearance after last spring’s media blitz in which he demanded that the Lakers trade him.

My Quick Take: Yesterday, turned 29 years old. These years represent a superstar’s prime, a stretch of time when he possesses the physical and mental skills to impose his will on opponents.

Bryant is the star of Stars and Stripes; easily Team USA ’s best player. But at the FIBA Americas Tournament, Bryant is dominating in a different way, controlling the game through his defense.

This is significant. Fair or not, Bryant has often been criticized for shooting too much, and dismissing teammates like Lindsay Lohan dismisses rehab. The Bryant-bashers acknowledge his individual greatness, but then, in the same breath, question his commitment to team play.

His stint with Team USA has shown something different. With so many gifted scorers, Bryant has dominated the national team’s first two games through his defense. He has smothered opposing guards with his lighter-frame and cat-like quickness. And in a Team USA inter-squad game, Bryant shut down , making the NBA’s King look like a pawn.

Don’t get it twisted. Bryant has always been a strong defender. But recently his individual defense has suffered because he’s used up more energy than the state of California carrying the ‘ offense.

Finding new ways to control games is a testament to Bryant’s determination. Reinvention is a sign of greatness. And adding more weapons to your already loaded arsenal is also a sign of greatness.  For a minute, I’m going to forget his drama with the Lakers and marvel at Bryant’s dedication to his craft.

Is Kobe Bryant Team USA’s best player? Get at us in the comment box below with your thoughts.

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