The Lakers have struggled through injury issues all season, and to their credit they have been able to persevere and remain in contention for playoff positioning, due largely to the inspired play of longtime Laker-leader, Kobe Bryant.
The team’s shot at a significant playoff push ended abruptly Friday night however, as Kobe crumbled to the court late in the fourth quarter, grimacing in pain as he reached down his left leg.
Lakers fans worst fears have come to fruition, as it is being reported that Kobe has torn his Achilles' tendon, and is out for at least the rest of this season. Without Kobe in the lineup the Lakers have little chance of making any noise in the postseason, but the playoff push has suddenly taken a backseat to Bryant’s long-term status.
An Achilles' injury is a difficult obstacle for anyone to overcome, and at age 34 with the amount of wear-and-tear his body has taken over the course of his 17 NBA seasons, Kobe’s full recovery is a real concern, even to him.
“Why the hell did this happen? Now I’m supposed to come back from this and be the same player or better at 35? How in the world am I supposed to do that?”
That exact question is on the forefront of everyone’s mind, and unfortunately there is no easy answer.
Bryant’s determination and dedication will go a long way towards a successful recovery, but many will still wonder if we have seen the last of Kobe Bryant as we know him.
Before last night’s injury Kobe was having a renaissance season of sorts, averaging 27 point per game and leading the Lakers at an exceptionally high level. It was also a record-setting season for Bryant, as he continued his climb up the NBA’s all-time scoring list, which he is now fourth on.
Kobe is scheduled to get an MRI on Saturday to confirm that it is indeed an Achilles' tear, and then begins Kobe’s long road to recovery. For a man as committed to his craft as Bryant is, it will be exceedingly difficult for him to watch his team fight for a final playoff spot without being out in the battle to help his brothers. He has faith in his teammates however, stating in a Friday night Facebook post:
“I have faith in my teammates. They will come through.”
Although Kobe will be there to support his teammates throughout the rest of the season, don’t expect him to relish the role of cheerleader that injured athletes often embrace.
“Guess I will be Coach Vino for the rest of this season,” Bryant stated, before assuring fans that it he is going to attack his recovery with the same drive and conviction as ever.
“If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear.”
Although this is an encouraging sentiment, it is safe to assume it is not the bear most Laker fans will be praying for, but rather a full recovery for their superstar.