In the summer of 2008, the United States Men’s Olympic basketball team won the gold medal at the Olympics in Beijing, China. The squad was nicknamed the “Redeem Team” and led by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was the head coach of the “Redeem Team.” He was an assistant coach on the 1992 “Dream Team,” so it was a special honor to lead the national team during its quest to take home the gold medal after Team USA got the bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics.
Bryant was the most accomplished NBA player on the “Redeem Team,” but LeBron was the face of the roster. That’s why the interaction Krzyzewski had with James during a practice where he told him to look him in the eye set the tone for the group.
“Redeem Team” went 8-0
The “Redeem Team” went 8-0 in the 2008 Olympics. They defeated China, Angola, Greece, Spain, and Germany in the preliminary round and then took care of business against Australia, Argentina, and Spain in the tournament bracket.
LeBron averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in the ’08 Olympics while shooting 60.2% from the field. Wade led the team in scoring by putting up 16.0 points per game.
The gold medal game against Pau Gasol and Spain was the toughest battle for Team USA. The Americans only won by a final score of 118-107. Wade led the way with 27 points, while Bryant had 20, and LeBron poured in 14.
Every player on the “Redeem Team” bought into Krzyzewski’s coaching style and practice habits. The legendary Duke coach developed great relationships with everyone on the team, especially LeBron.
But how did Coach K and LeBron become so close? It’s because they were always honest with each other and not afraid to hold each other accountable.
This was on full display when The King had his back turned to Krzyzewski while the coach was talking.
Krzyzewski told LeBron to turn around and look him in the eyes
During one of the first “Redeem Team” practices, LeBron turned his back on Krzyzewski while the coach was speaking. Coach K told James to turn around and look at him, setting a standard for the entire team.
In 2010 during an interview with Graham Bensinger, Krzyzewski talked about that interaction with LeBron.
“LeBron and I have a great relationship. We get that from being honest from the get-go,” Krzyzewski said. “In that particular situation, it was, ‘look at me.’ We need to have eye-to-eye contact. It actually became one of our standards. One of them came from that. When we talk to each other, we look each other in the eye.”
This was a big moment for LeBron and Krzyzewski. Instead of arguing about something as little as eye contact, the two Team USA leaders acknowledged its importance.
Going from coaching college students to NBA superstars can be challenging, but Krzyzewski handled his transition flawlessly and earned the respect of all the players by holding LeBron accountable.
LBJ has two Olympic gold medals
LeBron has two Olympic gold medals. His second one came in 2012 in London. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar was the third-leading scorer on that team behind Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
Team USA defeated France, Tunisia, Nigeria, Lithuania, Argentina (twice), Australia, and Spain to win the gold medal. The 2012 Olympics was the last time LeBron suited up for Team USA.