Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

33. Kobe Bryant

United States
Age: 29

Sure, he can be selfish. And his behavior off the court has been scandalous. So you may never love Bryant. But not respecting his game is insane. He just turned in one of the NBA's most sterling seasons ever, winning the MVP award and willing the Los Angeles Lakers into the NBA Finals. With Bryant on board, Team USA has no excuses— even LeBron James calls him the world's best player. Bryant showed more willingness to share the ball this season, which should serve the Americans well; imagine Kobe kicking it out to James or Dwayne Wade as teams swarm him this summer. The only potential hiccup is his wonky pinkie. He's delaying surgery on a torn ligament so he can win his first Olympic gold. "I've played with it, and I'm going to continue to play with it," says Bryant of the damaged digit. "It won't limit me."