Kobe Bryant: USA will field most powerful Olympic team ever
Kobe Byrant is promising the USA will bring their strongest ever basketball team to the London 2012 Olympics this summer
Fans in London will be treated to Team USA’s strongest Olympic roster ever this summer, according to Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
The Americans will arrive at the Olympics as heavy favourites and have announced a preliminary squad headlined by Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard.
Winning gold in Beijing four years ago put Team USA back on top of the basketball mountain – but Bryant believes the Americans can make an even more powerful statement in London.
“In terms of talent, for sure this is the strongest team we’ve ever had for the Olympics,” he told national press agency Sportsbeat.
“This is a big Olympics for us. We have an opportunity to kind of cement ourselves again as a powerhouse of the game.
“We won at the last Olympics, we won the World Championships [in 2010] and now we want to win in London. Then I think that will put us back where we belong.”
Bryant embraced the role of ‘closer’ in Beijing, taking the key shots late in games, particularly in the gold medal game against Spain.
And the 33-year-old is eager to shoulder that responsibility again in London while leaving his younger team-mates to spearhead the quest for gold.
“With that team, I don’t have to do much,” he admitted. “I’m just the closer. They can just bring me in for the last two minutes or something like that, if they need me.
“Hitting the big shots is what I do. LeBron, D-Wade, Durant and all those guys can do the heavy lifting.”
Meanwhile, Luol Deng’s selection for the NBA All-Star game has been hailed by his peers.
Deng will become the first Brit to play in the prestige match after enjoying a stellar season with the Chicago Bulls, despite missing seven matches with a wrist injury.
Toronto Raptors’ James Johnson, who spent two years in Chicago as Deng’s understudy, was delighted for his former team-mate.
“It’s no surprise to me – he deserves it,” he said “I thought he deserved to be selected in my rookie year  too.
“It’s great to see a couple of guys from the Chicago Bulls going to the All-Star game and it’s great for Luol – who I look up to. It’s excellent news.”
Boston Celtics veteran Ray Allen, a ten-time All-Star and an NBA champion in 2008, added: “I’m not surprised. The team has one of the best records in the NBA and he’s been a consistent player.
“I’m not sure how points he’s been averaging but he has contributed a lot to their success so he definitely deserves it.”