CHICAGO - Kobe Bryant, the MVP of the NBA, has a shot at another big prize after falling short of the NBA championship, and he will have plenty of help along the way.
LeBron James is there. Dwyane Wade, too.
They will lead a U.S. Olympic basketball team that was announced yesterday and hopes to capture the gold medal in Beijing in August after a third-place showing in Athens four years ago.
The team already has "reestablished itself" on an international level, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said during a news conference.
The next step is to bring home the gold, and the United States will send a deep, versatile team to China. Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd were also among the 12 players chosen from a pool of 33. They were joined by Tayshaun Prince, along with Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Michael Redd and Deron Williams.
"It was a very difficult selection process," Colangelo said. "When you have as many outstanding players as we have in this country - to select a group of 12 is obviously going to leave out a number of outstanding people."
The team was selected without a tryout. It will have a minicamp this week in Las Vegas and meet there July 20-25 to train and play an exhibition against Canada before heading overseas. The Americans will open Olympic play against China on Aug. 10.
Although the Americans captured the gold at the Sydney Games in 2000, they no longer dominate international play as they once did. The talent gap has narrowed, and many top players have chosen to not play for the national team in recent years.
Now the U.S. team appears loaded. Then again, the Americans went 5-3 in Athens and lost for the first time since NBA players started competing in 1992 even though they had James, Anthony, Wade and Tim Duncan. That group got routed by Puerto Rico before losing to Lithuania and Argentina. But this one is confident it will take the gold.
"It's really the world's game. We think we're the best at playing that game," said coach Mike Krzyzewski, warning that "unless we show the respect to the rest of the world that it is the world's game," there will be no gold medal.
Wade and Anthony said they didn't know what to expect in Athens.
"I've always seen greatness in the Olympics, but that was never one of my dreams," Wade said. "I never really expected to be on the Olympic team, especially in my first year. I didn't have a clue what I was getting into. . . . Now we respect the game so much. We respect the team basketball that they play internationally so much."
Anthony is part of a team that includes one of the best shooters (Redd) and defenders (Prince). There are role players and scorers, including the two best.
Bryant will play in his first Olympics after winning his first MVP while leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals. James averaged 30 points, just enough to beat Bryant for the scoring title.
Those two, along with Anthony, Kidd and Howard, started for a team that went unbeaten in the Olympic qualifying tournament last year. Eight of the 12 players headed to Beijing played on that team, and six played in the 2006 world championships.
"We're a team already," Krzyzewski said. "The thing that this program has done is . . . provide continuity and relationships. . . . We'll hit the ground running."
Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire withdrew from Olympic consideration. So did Detroit's Chauncey Billups. Wade's season ended in March because of a sore left knee that had been bothering him since surgery in 2007. He started working out in his hometown of Chicago in May, and James and Paul joined him to help sharpen his game.
The Quest for Olympic Gold
Here is a look at the U.S. Olympic men's basketball teams since 1992, when NBA players first constituted the roster:
1992 in Barcelona
Result: The team went 8-0 and won the gold medal with a 117-85 win over Croatia.
Players: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullen, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, John Stockton.
Coach: Chuck Daly.
1996 in Atlanta
Result: The team went 8-0 and won the gold medal with a 95-69 win over Yugoslavia.
Players: Charles Barkley, Anfernee Hardaway, Grant Hill, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, Mitch Richmond, David Robinson, John Stockton.
Coach: Lenny Wilkins.
2000 in Sydney
Result: The team went 8-0 and won the gold medal with an 85-75 win over France.
Players: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Ray Allen, Vin Baker, Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Tim Hardaway, Allan Houston, Jason Kidd, Antonio McDyess, Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, Steve Smith.
Coach: Rudy Tomjanovich.
2004 in Athens
Result: The team went 5-3 and won the bronze medal with a win over Lithuania after losing to Argentina in the semifinals.
Players: Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Richard Jefferson, Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion, Lamar Odom, Emeka Okafor, Amare Stoudemire and Dwyane Wade.
Coach: Larry Brown.
2008 in Beijing
Players: Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams.
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski.
Sources: NBA.com, ESPN.com, everything2.com, Associated Press.
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