The rest of the basketball world has caught up with the United States, according to one of the game’s superstars, Kobe Bryant.
Speaking in Beijing on the eve of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup final between Spain and Argentina, the 41-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers legend, who won Olympic gold with the United States at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, expressed no surprise at the failure of the US team to defend its title.
“It’s not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the USA,” said Bryant, a Global Ambassador for the flagship FIBA event.
“It’s a matter of the rest of the world having been caught up for quite some time.
“It’s come to the point where we, as the USA, are going to win some, we’re going to lose some.
“And that’s just how it goes.”
The US team, seeking a third successive world title, were beaten by France in the quarter-finals, and a subsequent loss to Serbia meant their highest possible placing would be seventh – their worst ever.
The US men at least finished with a win today, securing that seventh place with an 87-74 victory over Poland. Serbia also rounded off their competition positively, earning fifth place by beating the Czech Republic 90-81.
Bryant, who was also a five-time National Basketball Association champion, continued: “There’s some great basketball being played: France, Serbia, Argentina.
“We’re going to have our challenges with the next team, whether it’s ‘Redeem Team Two’ or whatever you want to call the team.
“No matter what team it is, it’s not going to be easy.”
Bryant recalled the battle the Americans had in the 2008 Olympic Final against Spain – a 118-107 victory.
“I remember on the Redeem Team we needed a hell of a fourth quarter to beat Spain.
“That was a hell of a team we had.
“We still needed a really late push to beat Spain in that gold-medal match.”