Kobe Bryant is getting old. At 33, he'll be the third-oldest American men's Olympic basketball player since the "Dream Team" took Barcelona by storm in the 1992 Olympic Games when he suits up for Team USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, behind Jason Kidd (35 in 2008) and Larry Bird (34 in 1992).
So, for once, Bryant has chosen to be a loser. He's dropped 16 pounds since the end of his 2011-12 season.
Bryant tells The Guardian that he made the move to stay competitive after the grueling schedule required of the U.S.'s Olympians.
"With summer basketball leading directly into the season – and I'm expecting to play until next June – I have to take some load off my knees. I've got to shave some of this weight."
Of course, it's a smart choice. Kobe's not just almost as old as Kidd and Bird were; he's got many more NBA minutes to his name.
Bryant has played more regular-season minutes (42,377) than Bird played regular-season and playoff minutes combined (41,329) in his career, which ended after the 1992 season, and almost as many as Kidd played between the regular season and playoffs (42,593) through the end of the 2007-08 season. And that's without adding in Kobe's 8,641 playoff minutes, which rank second all-time to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
A slimmed-down Kobe is in a better position to stay healthy and help Team USA win gold in London, surely, but he's also way more likely to maximize the benefit of playing with Steve Nash (and maybe Dwight Howard) with the Lakers in 2012-13 -- and beyond any shadow of a doubt, winning a sixth NBA title means more to him than winning his second Olympic gold medal.
It's fairly likely that Kobe telling The Guardian all this is about as much about letting the world know what he's doing as it is being candid, because being pathologically hardworking is part of Kobe's legend at this point, but it did make for a really good feature. Bryant discusses gray hairs, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski dismisses the idea that Kobe was ever scrawny, and Jeremiah Tittle (real name!) writes this:
Bryant truly is the Ryan Giggs of basketball; as feisty and competitive as ever at this advanced age.
I will bet money that if some fool should ask Bryant about that comparison to Manchester United's seemingly immortal Giggs — who scored a game-winning goal in his 900th game with the club at 38 years of age in February — there will be an expletive that rhymes with "duck" in some part of the response. And maybe an interrobang.
(But it is a good comparison.)
For more on the 2012 London Olympics, visit our dedicated hub.