LONDON — The eyes of the world were on the Olympics and Usain Bolt Sunday night, and that includes those of the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team.
As star-studded a group as they are, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are the only athletes competing here that could rival Bolt for global recognition right now, the need to witness history on the track in the fastest 100 meters race was a must.
“This is the biggest event of them all right here,” James told the Associated Press shortly before Bolt’s Olympic-record sprint to glory. “The whole world is going to watch this tonight.”
There is a mutual admiration among so many of the world’s elite athletes that permeates this competition. They finally get a chance to interact with each other at the venues and in the Olympic Village.
From 100 meter bronze medalist Justin Gatlin and other members of the U.S. track and field team showing up in the stands to support James, Bryant and the crew when they whipped Tunisia to members of the basketball team showing up at everything from beach volleyball to swimming to women’s basketball to tennis (Bryant caused a particular stir at Wimbledon over the weekend), this is one of those rare occasions when they can all enjoy each other competing at the highest level.
“It’s just a recognition of all of the hard work, of a job well done to get here and be able to represent your country,” Bryant said of what draws these athletes from different disciplines to each other. “In Beijing we got a chance to see Michael Phelps in action live and I told all of these guys that we had to do more of that this time. When you look back years from now and tell your kids that you were at the Olympics, you want to be able to tell them you saw history being made.”
Kevin Love took Bryant’s words to heart, and has been on a mission since setting foot on British soil to document every magical moment of the team’s trip — Twitter and the popular photo-sharing app Instagram being his weapons of choice.
Working around their own practice and competition schedule, Love said they haven’t missed much. Sometimes they go in pairs, but more often in larger groups, hustling to make sure they witness as much as they can.
“I was all in from the moment we met up in Las Vegas for training camp,” Love said. “But I really think it hit me at the opening ceremonies. Once you are inside that stadium and you see the athletes from every country walking in and those flags waving. It’s hard not to get caught up in the Olympics. Obviously, our first priority here is to take care of business and win a gold medal. But you don’t get here and not take advantage of the entire experience. You have to enjoy this time in whatever ways you can.”
The U.S gets back to work on the court in the final game of pool play at the Olympic Basketball Arena tonight against Argentina (5:15 p.m. ET, NBC).