Carmelo Anthony is one of a few stars to experience both the highs and lows of USA Olympic basketball, He suffered through the team’s high-profile failures but also basked in the glory of a successful and legendary pursuit of global redemption. While most hardcore NBA fans of that generation know the story well by now, Anthony is giving them insight about the affect Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had on the Redeem Team.

“He was the last piece that we needed,” the prolific scorer said on 7PM in Brooklyn with Carmelo Anthony & The Kid Mero, via ClutchPoints. We could have probably won it without Kobe, but it would have been tougher because everybody’s roles probably would have been a little bit different…That {2008 Olympics} was a lot different, so bringing Kobe in was the piece that molded everybody together.”

Team USA and Kobe Bryant needed each other to accomplish their goals

Team USA was stuffed with future Hall of Famers, so Anthony could be right about them winning regardless, but Bryant added a different aura that was particularly coveted during that time. To Anthony’s point, American basketball was under extreme pressure to win the Gold Medal after falling short in both the 2004 Summer Games and the 2006 FIBA World Championships.

Young guys like him, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard were capable of getting the job done after some additional development and maturing, but a credible champion and lauded competitor like Bryant left no doubt about the squad’s path to the top of the podium. Furthermore, he had a chip on his shoulder.

Although the Black Mamba was spared the humiliation of the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece, he still wanted to taste Olympic gold. Injuries prevented him from representing USA four years earlier, which resulted in a motivated Kobe Bryant for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Redeem Team resoundingly accomplished its mission, demolishing the rest of the field on its way to an undefeated run. Lakers fans can take satisfaction in the fact that Kobe Bryant likely ensured that the United States would regain its status as the unquestioned leader in basketball.

The question now is, who will serve that role at the 2024 Olympics?