Off the court, Kobe Bryant and his Lakers teammate Pau Gasol were like brothers — but when the two faced off at the 2008 Olympics, the Black Mamba wasted no time taking off the gloves.
In a preview from Netflix's upcoming documentary The Redeem Team — revealed on Saturday as part of the TUDUM fan event — Gasol recalls how their relationship was put to the test during the gold medal game between his native Spain and the USA in Beijing.
In the clip, Gasol remembers his "big brother" visiting him and his Spanish teammates ahead of the big game at their apartment in the Olympic Village. Gasol and Bryant were already close from playing together in Los Angeles, but the Spaniard remembers his Olympic teammates being starstruck by the affable NBA superstar's presence. At the time, the visit seemed innocent enough, but looking back on it now, Gasol wonders if Bryant wasn't intentionally trying to "soften up" him and his teammates with the friendly get-together.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol at the 2008 Olympics.
Any illusions Team Spain had that Bryant was their new friend evaporated quickly when the game began. In a clip from the doc, which features interviews with former Team USA players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, James recalls Bryant telling him his plan to shock their opponents.
"Kob said he goin' set the tone to start the game, and he said, 'I'm running through Pau's f—-in' chest,'" the current Laker superstar remembers.
James says he initially doubted that Bryant would get so physical with his best friend and NBA teammate, but sure enough, on the first play of the game, Bryant launched himself into Gasol's chest and knocked him hard to the court.
"He just went right to the middle of my chest to try to get through me, to send a message, not just to me but to his teammates to say, 'Hey, this might be my brother; I play with him, we're close, but I don't care about anything else but winning,'" says Gasol.
Team USA ended up winning the game and taking home the gold, beating Spain team 118-107. It was a major statement for Bryant and the USA Men's Basketball program, which had settled for disappointing Bronze Medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics and the 2006 FIBA World Championship. The Redeem Team chronicles Team USA's return to form at the 2008 Olympics.
With Bryant's tragic passing in 2020, the film is also a way for his former NBA colleagues to honor his legacy. During a special screening in L.A., Dwyane Wade reportedly addressed the crowd, saying, "One of the things that for me was very important was how we told Kobe Bryant's story throughout this, in the midst of the team story. To me, that was a very sensitive moment at that time, but a beautiful arc, a beautiful story."
The Redeem Team premieres on Netflix Oct 7. Watch the clip above.
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