As a sports fan, you rarely get the opportunity to see the best athletes and competitors of your generation team up to play alongside each other. We never saw Messi and Ronaldo team up during their prime nor did we see NFL players like Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson create an unstoppable duo but the 2008 U.S. men’s basketball team gave us one of those outliers. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James went from the No. 1 and No. 2 basketball players in the world to teammates in the Olympics. The nostalgia and rarity along with the Olympic success from Redeem Team gave us one of the most iconic teams in not only basketball history but sports history.
The Redeem Team documentary, produced by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and The Last Dance director John Weinbach, has been the talk of basketball fans of late. The film takes you through the rise of Team USA basketball from being an embarrassment to being the powerhouse it’s become today.
“I can’t speak for Bron, but I know for me it was very important. We were important, we were leaders of that team. We were the voices of that team with our brother Kobe,” Dwyane Wade tells Complex. “When I was approached by the amazing team that you see that got assembled to do this… I jumped right in because I wanted to make sure that if this story was going to be told, that our voices were a big part of it.”
Prior to the film’s release we sat down with NBA legend and Olympic gold medalist Dwyane Wade along with coaching legend Mike Krzyzewski to talk about the documentary, the competition around the world, and the 2008 vs. 2012 Team USA debate.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
What made you both decide to jump on this doc, anything specifically that you and Bron talked about that made you do it?
D-Wade: Yeah, man, I, I can’t speak for Bron, but I know for me it was very important. We were important, we were leaders of that team. We were the voices of that team with our brother Kobe. When I was approached by the amazing team that you see that got assembled to do this, to be a part of it, I jumped right in because I wanted to make sure that if this story was going to be told, that our voices were a big part of it. Our stories were told the way that they needed to be told.
Coach K: I loved it because it was an amazing story especially the fact that our players Dwyane and LeBron were so involved. All the access that was given to the NBA, we felt comfortable with them. We didn’t know where it would lead so this is one of the places it’s led to. It’s a great documentary. It’s very real and appropriate.
To D-Wade, with social media obviously Kobe and Bron do get a lot of attention from this team, but do you kind of feel like you were under the radar a little bit? I think it’s fair to say you were kind of the MVP of that team.
D-Wade: Do I feel like it? Yeah, I probably did at the time. I mean, I’m on a team with LeBron and Kobe. I, I get it too. You know what I mean? At the same time, I always look at it like this. You have to understand that it’s certain floors in the hotel that you don’t have access to, right? My card don’t go up to where they’ll go up to. I mean, I may stop at the penthouse. They may go a little further (laughs), that other suite higher in a penthouse so I understood that. For me, I was coming off injuries and I was coming off very public personal things going on in my life. The Olympics was just very important for me to reestablish myself and put everything behind me to move forward. And I was just trying to be the best player for that team. And so I had an unbelievable role and my role that I had. I would take it over and over again. I was like Jordan Clarkson for a little while. It felt good.
For both of you. We got a lot of good Kobe anecdotes in the doc. Do you have any Kobe stories that weren’t told in the documentary?
D-Wade: Maybe the first one that comes to mind. And it blew my mind because at that time, I’m 26 years old. Kobe is 30 and Kobe’s the Star. I’m still young enough and coming up, I’ve only been in the league five years. Once I had the conversation with Coach K about, you know, where I was gonna play on the team and I was gonna come off the bench, I think Kobe sensed that, you know, just his innate ability as a leader. He sensed that ‘damn, like this is still D-Wade.’ Like even though he say he cool with it, he wanna be out there with us. And so he came to me and he was like, Yo, when you get in the game and we’re playing together I’m gonna pick up full court and I’m gonna turn my defender around half court, and when I do that, you just come and do what you do.
Coach K: I’ve said so much. I loved Kobe. Not just as a player but as a person and I loved what he did. He was the best player at that time. He understood that. A couple days before practice he came in and met with me. He said I want to play defense. I want to guard the best player. In our first practice he never took a shot. He was so calculated in a positive way to make sure that he fits in. Obviously he fit in very well.
D-Wade: If you notice, I had a lot of steals. I had a lot of guys pressuring and they was letting me play free safety and just allow me to, to run through, come and steal the ball. And that’s why I got a lot of dances and a lot of fast breaks. So to have Kobe Bryant, Kobe, could have told me a young fella, you pick up 94 feet and when you turn ‘em, Imma come in and smash ‘em. Right. But he said, I’m gonna do it. And he set a precedent right there. He set an example that this is not about me, This is bigger than me. I know what you’re great at and I’m gonna put you in a position to succeed.