Dwayne Wade recalls the thrill of linking arms with Kobe Bryant at the 2008 gold medal ceremony: ‘We were just two kids who loved playing the game’
There was a moment late in the 2008 men’s basketball gold medal game in Beijing – a tense clash between a superstar-filled American team and reigning world champions Spain – when Dwayne Wade drove with the ball past a defender, stopping just as his feet . hit the paint. Wade then sends the ball to Kobe Bryant, open and just beyond the three-point line.
“I found him on the other side of the court, he swooped, got up and hit a three. That’s when we realized it was over,” Wade recalled Thursday night as he stood on the red carpet for the Netflix documentary. The Redeem Team outside Netflix’s Tudum Theater in Hollywood. He knows the game well as it is one of his favorites in the game, the one that ended with gold medals around the necks of Wade, Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd with a score of 118-107.
It’s also a moment in the new Netflix film directed by Jon Weinbach which details the rise, fall and redemption of the USA men’s basketball team on the Olympic stage. It features a host of new interviews with the team and never-before-seen footage of the late Bryant with his wife Vanessa and their daughters, including Gianna Bryant who was killed in a helicopter crash with her father on January 26, 2020.
Wade, an executive producer on the doc, showed up to the premiere with Weinbach and Swap Team insiders like Frank Marshall, Mike Tollin, Diego Hurtado De Mendoza, Philip Byron, Greg Groggel, Mark Parkman, Jonathan Vogler and others. Along with his favorite piece, Wade shared what it meant to him to win a gold medal and lock arms with Bryant at the gold medal ceremony.
“2008 was a very important time for Kobe in his personal life and a very important time for me as I was rebuilding and working to get my name back as well, after an injury,” said Wade, who walked the mat. . . with his wife Gabrielle Union. “To be able to stand there, side by side with one of my favorite players and someone who has become like a brother to me throughout this time, it was special. We could hug and look at each other and be giddy, like kids. Take away Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, we were just two kids who loved to play basketball. To have had the chance to do it on one of the biggest stages in the world, it was amazing.
For Weinbach, browsing through the images was “emotional.”
“I grew up in Los Angeles as a Lakers fanatic. I’m two years older than Kobe and I have two boys,” he explained. “And as a Laker fan, I got a new appreciation for Kobe during those Olympics because when the chips were down and they really needed a bucket, it was Kobe who turned it on. I wanted this story to be told.
Weinbach said they began the process of creating the document before Bryant’s death and following the tragedy, “it added another level of accountability.”
Marshall also felt the weight. “One of the reasons I signed up for this was that we had access to the Olympic archives,” he explained of the agreement with the International Olympic Committee which granted access to documents previously unavailable or “too expensive” images to license. “I hadn’t seen any of these images that they shot during those four years between Athens and Beijing. That’s what I like about the documents, the process of discovery, as opposed to my daily work where I know exactly what I do every moment of the day. Being able to find images like Kobe’s birthday, it was a big celebration and amazing things that we could weave into the story.
They did so with the blessing of Bryant’s family: “We’ve been working with the family on just about everything we’ve done for this particular doc. We are very sensitive to all that we have in these documents and for me, as long as it happened and it is real, then we know it is true. But we also want to respect the feelings of Kobe’s family.”
Swap Team begins streaming on Netflix on October 7.