Yesterday, I read a Kobe Bryant interview (L.A Times), and to tell you the truth I was flabbergasted by what he said.
Here’s an excerpt of his interview:
“How does international play differ from that in the NBA?”
Kobe: “I think the NBA is actually a little less physical than international basketball. I think the international basketball rules and what they have, it’s what the NBA used to be in the ’80s, in terms of being able to hand-check and set screens and roll with the guard under, real physical in the paint. It’s a much more physical game.”
Wow! Kind of impressive, huh? Kobe is right on the money. What’s your opinion about that? For me, Kobe’s thoughts on International Games are just mind-blowing! Actually, I was happy to read that comment, plus it’s a great star like Kobe who uttered this sentence, so it gives a lot of credit to this statement.
Over the years, International teams have so much improved that even great stars like him are forced to acknowledge their strides, and above all to respect them.
Who could have imagined that about 15 years ago? Well, nobody.
Way back in ’92, Team USA was crushing her opponents in Barcelona, Spain, for the Olympics Games. Same thing for Atlanta ’96. They were just manhandling their opponents, who were unable to face them more than 20 minutes. At the time, every kids in the world was worshiping them… as for me I was like everybody else : enthralled by this show.
Four years later in Sydney, Australia, things started to change a little bit. USA struggled to clinch the gold medal. They were not dominating like before, International teams had already made some significant headway, but team USA was still able to cope with it. But there was another major issue with American players : their barefacedness. They were disrespecting their opponents, with their trash-talking and all that stuff, and the way they behaved on the bench. They looked kind of uneducated, to say the least. And before long, their behavior would rile most folks. Most often, I was getting mad when they were behaving like some spoiled child… It was kind of insulting.
But the best part was to come… for foreign teams. In the ’02 world championship, who was held on the American soil, Team USA was beaten for the first time (with NBA players). Moreover, this mess happened in America! Talk about an earthquake! Agentina was the team who pulled off that feat, and that was a huge relief for many people (including me!), ’cause now America was coerced to respect the rest of the world…
And 2 years ago, for the World Championship in Japan, USA’s sovereignty over his opponents was definitely water under the bridge.
They were harshly beaten in the semi-finals of this competition by the Greek Team, who just outplayed them. USA hit rock bottom that day, and turned out to be unable to stop those Greek players.
So here’s my point: when Kobe talks about his opponents with a lot of respect, I’m prone to think that America’s effrontery over his opponents tends to disappear. I hope his teammates are on the same page as him!
Nowadays, there’s a real opposition on the court. That’s the way I envision the sport: play fair, give everything you have, face a real opposition, play tough while respecting your adversary, synonymous of sportsmanship.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to Beijing’s Olympics Games… even if my French National Team won’t attend this event. Maybe I’ll blog about this letdown one of these days…