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On Kobe Bryant’s Birthday, Here Are His Eight Greatest Moments For Team USA

By Todd Kortemeier | Aug. 23, 2020, 9 a.m. (ET)

Born August 23, 1978, Kobe Bryant didn’t get to play any of his 1,566 career NBA games in his birth month. 

But he did get to play for several gold medals.

Bryant in fact played in all three of his international tournaments at least partially in his birth month, starting with the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship. The next year he made his Olympic debut at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 and led Team USA to the gold medal. He concluded his USA Basketball career in 2012 with another gold medal in London before retiring from international play.

On the occasion of what would have been Bryant’s 42nd birthday, here’s a look back at his eight greatest games in a Team USA uniform. 

Kobe Bryant celebrates at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship on Aug. 27, 2007 in Las Vegas. 


August 22, 2007
Bryant made his NBA debut in 1996, but it took a long time until he first put on a USA Basketball uniform. That opportunity finally came at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, known today as the AmeriCup, a tournament for the top teams in the Americas region. After finishing a disappointing fourth in 2005, Team USA was looking to rebound in a big way, not only to win the tournament but also qualify for the Olympic Games by making the gold-medal game.

Bryant played in all 10 games, beginning in Team USA’s opener against Venezuela, a 112–69 rout. Bryant led all players that day with five assists while chipping in 14 points and three steals in 16 minutes of action. 

August 30, 2007
The final game of the Americas Championship quarterfinal round would determine who got the top seed going into the semifinals, either Team USA or Argentina. Bryant turned in his best tournament performance to that point, scoring 15 points in the first quarter as the U.S. built a 28–13 lead. Bryant went on to lead all scorers with 27 points as Team USA won 91–76. On September 2, Team USA and Argentina met again in the gold-medal game, and Bryant was again the leading scorer with 31 points in a 118–81 victory.

Kobe Bryant smiles in the fourth quarter of the gold medal game against Spain at the Olympic Games  Beijing 2008 on Aug. 24, 2008 in Beijing.


August 10, 2008
Apart from making his Olympic debut, Bryant and the rest of Team USA carried a huge responsibility with them into Beijing: make everyone forget about 2004. After Team USA managed just a disappointing bronze medal in Athens, the 2008 squad became known as the “Redeem Team” in its effort to get that gold medal back. 

Opening play against the hosts in basketball-mad China, and with President George W. Bush in attendance, Bryant was called on to play a team-high 27 minutes in his first Olympic game. Though he struggled some with his shot, Bryant scored 13 points, and the star-struck Chinese fans cheered along with every one of them, even as the U.S. defeated the home team 101–70.

August 20, 2008
After going undefeated in the preliminary round, Team USA needed to get past a tough Australia team in the first game of the knockout round. All 12 members of Team USA scored but Bryant led them all, posting 25 points in a 116-85 victory. 

August 24, 2008
One day after his 30th birthday, Bryant was on the brink of an Olympic gold medal. Only Spain stood in the way, and Team USA had dispatched them by 37 points in the preliminary round. But this day was different, as the Americans struggled to put the Spaniards away.

As he so often did for the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant played the role of closer, scoring 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. With Team USA up by five and with 3:20 on the clock, Bryant nailed a three-pointer, raising a finger to his lips to quiet any hope of a Spain comeback. Bryant was also fouled in the act of shooting by Rudy Fernandez, who was Spain’s top scorer with 22 points. Fernandez fouled out and Bryant completed the four-point play. The U.S. was able to hold on for a 118-107 win and restore its gold-medal status.

Kobe Bryant shoots a free throw shot against Lithuania at the Olympic Games London 2012 on Aug. 4, 2012 in London.


August 8, 2012
In his return to the Olympic Games, Bryant was now the elder statesman of the team just shy of his 34th birthday. Bryant struggled throughout the preliminary round, but his younger teammates were able to carry the scoring load as Team USA went 5-0. Then Bryant struggled in the first half of the quarterfinals, being held scoreless by Australia. Finally, once the Australians narrowed Team USA’s lead to three in the third quarter, Bryant caught fire.

With a six-point lead, Bryant led a sequence in which he hit a three-pointer, stole the ball on the other end and then came back down for another trey. Then in the fourth quarter, he hit four three-pointers in a row in just over a minute, allowing the Americans to pull away to a 119-86 win.

August 10, 2012
In the semifinal against Argentina, the third Olympic semifinal meeting between the two nations, Bryant this time helped Team USA open the game hot. Bryant went three of five from beyond the line and scored 11 points in the first quarter as Team USA built a lead it would not surrender. The Americans won 109-83 to book a place in their second consecutive gold-medal game.

August 12, 2012
In what would turn out to be his final game in red, white and blue, Bryant was again there for his teammates when they needed him most. In a rematch with Spain, Bryant poured in key buckets just as it appeared Spain might be getting a foothold in the game.

In the first quarter with Spain up 12-8, Bryant hit back-to-back threes to regain the lead. In the third quarter, a Bryant dunk evened the score. Minutes later and down one, Bryant nailed another three, this time giving the Americans the lead for good. Bryant, who scored 17 points, thereafter announced his retirement from international basketball, having helped Team USA get back to its familiar position atop the basketball world.


Todd Kortemeier

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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