It was the summer of 2008 and Kobe Bryant was playing on the U.S team at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. He mentioned to Times columnist Bill Plaschke that winning gold might be his greatest accomplishment, better than an NBA championship, a sentiment he knew might irritate some Laker fans.
“So what?” he said. “If they don’t understand this, they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s simple. You’re playing for your country.”
On Monday, the International Olympic Committee issued its reaction to the sudden death of a basketball icon who won that gold in China and another one, four years later, in London.
“Kobe was an outstanding and true Olympic champion,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “He embraced the power of sport to change people’s lives.”
Even after stepping away from the American team — he chose not to try for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games — Bryant continued his involvement in the Olympic movement, promoting a bid to bring the Games back to Southern California.
The former Lakers star, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash on Sunday, joined the local bid committee’s board in 2017 and appeared in a video with the likes of Will Ferrell and Jessica Alba.
At the time, L.A. was trying for 2024.
“In 2024,” Bryant said on screen, “we’re going to be rolling.”
The effort eventually resulted in the IOC choosing L.A. to host in 2028.
“Kobe will forever be an inspiration to our city, athletes and the world of sport,” LA28 Chairman Casey Wasserman said. “While his family grieves for a father, a husband and a remarkable daughter, we are joined together in mourning and honoring his life.”
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