There is an interesting dynamic developing within the Team USA Basketball locker room. You have some of the best athletes in the world coming together to play the worlds biggest stage, so you can imagine that there are plenty of egos-clashing and tension amongst the Dream Team.
There is usually friction that comes when you bring high caliber athletes together, but, this time around, you can feel the tension condensing in the air. It’s thick like James Harden’s beard.
Now this tension isn’t unusual – in fact, it is pretty commonplace on Team USA. Every 4 years there is a battle for the top-dog spot – the alpha leader of the team. And this year, it is coming to a boil between Lebron James and Kobe Bryant.
Here is Lebron James, reigning MVP and World Champion of the League, teamed up with 5-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant. Sure they are teammates but basketball is so often run by one player. The go-to guy. And it will be interesting to see who cements that position in this years USA squad. Now this isn’t the first time these guys have played together but it is the first time that Lebron has a championship of his own to bring to the table. A huge golden ring shaped symbol of validation.
In a lot of circles people believe that the torch should be handed over to Lebron. Being that he is the current king of the NBA and the best player in the world right now. But in Kobe’s camp that torch is staying put. Kobe is going out of his way to let the media know that he still runs the show. For example, in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated Bryant responds to Lebron’s 2012 NBA Championship by saying,
“One championship doesn’t get it [done], you know what I’m saying? So, for me, when we won one, it was a little different because it was, like, you know, Michael [Jordan] had six, Magic [Johnson] had five. So, me and Shaq both were like, ‘Man, we got to get some more. One ain’t going to cut it.’…Since the last time we were here [playing in the 2008 Olympics], I got two.”
Now this isn’t just stuff he is saying to the media, he has plans to make sure Lebron gets the picture loud and clear. According to the SI reporter, Kobe will remind king James who the real king is when it comes to ‘ships.
“I will [remind LeBron that I have more rings than he does],” he said. “I will.”
To stoke the fire even more Bryant is now being called out by MJ. Kobe recently said that the 2012 Team USA could beat the 1992 Dream Team, a team that is widely considered to be the best ever assembled. And on Thursday, Michael Jordan said that he “absolutely laughed” when he heard Kobe’s comments. His airness claimed there was “no comparison” between this year’s Olympic team and the Dream Team. And lashed out at Kobe, telling the Associated Press, “For him to compare those two teams is not one of the smarter things he ever could have done”.
To make matters even worse, there is a YouTube clip circulating of Kyrie Irving challenging Bryant to a 1 on 1 game for $50k.
Its not so bad having arguably the greatest player ever (MJ) giving you shit, but Kyrie Irving?! A rookie! That’s a tough one. And all the while Lebron is just sitting back polishing his ring as he is flooded with adoration.
But Kobe has not wavered one bit, he is unfazed and is still supremely confident. He responded to Michael Jordan’s comments by brazenly saying, “”He’s knows I’m a bad m—–f—–r. I’m not really tripping.” And in the video Kobe confidently dismisses Irving. Telling him to save his money, calling him a high school kid and he compared him to Lil Bow Wow. So you can see Kobe is not backing down without a fight, lets just hope all this tenacity translates to the court.
Who will run the show? Will it be the confident vet or the current champ. The man who recently exorcised all his demons and tore the guerilla off his back by getting his first ring? Or the man who has 5 rings of his own? In early stages it looks like Kobe is taking the initiative to be the leader but seeing how Lebron looked in the Playoffs I wouldn’t be surprised if things change drastically come tip-off.
This scuffle is very one-sided being as Kobe is the one taking all the heat but he is the one who started all the banter about rings and “getting it done”. Just know that Lebron won’t be able to keep quiet much longer. I believe that this silent scuffle between Kobe and Lebron will not stay in the shadows for long. Someone will be designated leader of the 2012 Team, and someone will have to take the passengers seat
This may be a dynamic that is not even worth worrying about, being as our entire roster is stacked with All-stars that far overmatch any of the other nations best squads. But it is still worth paying attention to. I believe this friction will propel our team to its highest potential. Having Kobe and Lebron running on all cylinders trying to prove to each other, and the world, who’s boss will leave other teams in the dust. Watch these guys both on and off the court, and see for yourselves who really runs the show.
My money is on Kobe.
Jake Annear | Elite.
Photo Credit: Getty Images