Kobe Bryant enjoys the crowd's cheers, ignores Kevin Durant (Christian Petersen/ Getty).
At 33 years old with 16 NBA seasons under his belt, Kobe Bryant is the elder statesman of the Team USA men's basketball team. It's a position that commands great respect, and not just because Bryant has accomplished more during his career than all but a few players in the history of the sport. In basic terms, Bryant has seen and absorbed more from the sport than anyone else. He knows things that others don't.
Bryant embraces that fact, though he might be going a little overboard with it. In fact, he says there's nothing he can learn from his Team USA teammates right now. From Jeff Zillgitt for USA Today (via Michael Katz):
Asked what it's like to be the old guy on the team, Bryant said, "I'm where everybody wants to get to. I just happen to be still playing."
"Can you learn anything from these young guys?" he was asked.
"You know everything?"
Bryant: "I don't know if I know it all, but I know more than they do."
Kobe very well could have been joking when he said this, but, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, sometimes things are funny because they're true. I don't know if there's really nothing Bryant could learn from his teammates — something tells me Chris Paul could teach him something about using varying speeds to pick apart a defense off the dribble. However, I do believe that Kobe thinks he knows as much as all his teammates combined, because that's the sort of personality he has. He thrives on his confidence and needs it to maintain his competitive edge.
That point of view is also clear in another quote from Zillgitt's piece when Kobe says that he's the best post player on the Team USA roster. This is demonstrably untrue to anyone who's watched LeBron James in this tournament; his varied skills on the block call into question whether or not we should continue to classify him as a wing. Yet Kobe doesn't only have to say true things about his skills. Along with talent, that self-confidence is what allowed Bryant to bounce back from several poor performances to lead Team USA in scoring in their quarterfinal win over Australia.
In an ideal world, Kobe would make like Wade Garrett in "Road House" and realize that a student can impart as much wisdom to the teacher as the other way around. But Bryant's earned this approach to his status as Team USA's old dog, and if he chooses that path then so be it. The rest of us will look to his teammates for a few more tricks.
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