The greatest basketball player of the 21st century is Kobe Bryant. With seven NBA Finals and five championships in the Lakers uniform Kobe Bryant has done it all for the franchise. Individually, he is a 15 time all-star, a 4 time all-star game MVP, the 2008 NBA MVP and a 2 time NBA Finals MVP. Additionally, he is currently the fourth scorer of all time with 31,617 points, and is just about to pass the third scorer of all time who is no other than Michael Jordan who scored 32,292 points. Is there anything else he can do? No, we would say, but we are not the Black Mamba. The Mamba is a fearless competitor, and he believes that he has what it takes to get more championships, one perhaps two more.
Is he wrong? Well, at 34 years of age he averaged 27 points per game last year, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal. He plays under any circumstances including injuries and sickness, and he never makes excuses. Broken fingers, flu, sprain ankles, he plays through it all. He works harder than anyone and does not shy away from decisive moments. In fact, he most often shows up big time in those moments.
This is the Kobe Bryant we know. This is the Kobe Bryant the whole basketball world admires and respect. However, the Achilles tendon tear injury that he suffered from dictates what he can do, for how long and how long he will still have strengthen it before returning to full strength. Whereas Kobe’s will was almost always able to dominate the pain and dictate that he would play, this injury outmatches Kobe’s immense will to compete to win prohibiting him to dictate the term of his comeback. Put simply, Kobe Bryant cannot control this process his body does.
Given that fact, I was alarmed and scared when talks about Kobe playing on opening night emerged. I was relieved when I saw Kobe continuing his rehab instead of being on the court. Yet, a few days ago, whereas Kobe was celebrating his return to practice, talk reemerged that he was to be back at the end of the month of November or on December 1st . I am scared that Kobe comes back too soon. I am scared that Kobe shortens his rehab because the Lakers have a bad start and because he was wants to play to help the team. I am simply worried about and scared for Kobe Bryant. Over the 17 years of his illustrious career he has made hundreds of millions of his fans feel joy, happiness, surprise, and disbelieve after his indescribable performances that solely he could pull off. It is only normal that we again feel for him in such a decisive moment for his career.
As part of a larger strategic vision laid out in another article, I and most of Laker nation would be reassured if Kobe Bryant came back any time after Christmas or on Christmas day , namely after he enjoyed the full nine months of recovery. The explosive Dominic Wilkins, an Hall of Fame player and the 11th scorer of all time, is one great player who suffered that injury and came back strong and played at a very high level afterward scoring 27 points plus for a few years. However, he was not the same dynamic force he was before the Achilles tendon tear for that injury is as unpredictable as is consequential on an athlete’s body. Moreover, Dominic Wilkins was entering the last years of his impressive career, so it is only natural that his mythical explosiveness faded as father time approached. In effect, there is a risk that Kobe does not come back and perform like last years. Nevertheless, I am reassured by two facts. First, Kobe Bryant is no Dominic Wilkins. Even though the latter is an all-time great, Kobe Bryant could be argued to be a top five or top ten player of all-time. Second, allowing the recovery and rehab time to extend to the full recommended nine months maximizes chances of a total recovery and reduces the chances of setbacks.
One should also remember that Kobe Bryant is not a top ten all-time great only because of his athletic abilities. In fact, the quite the opposite is true. Just like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant has great fundamentals. From foot work to his ball handling Kobe has it all, and can do it all. Fadeaway jumpers, mid-range regular jump shots, 3 pointers, drive to the basketball with different finish with either hands including reverse lay ups, up and under lay ups and a variety of dunks, Kobe Bryant has done it all for 17 years because he has skills on top of his great physical abilities. And like his superstar friend boxing living legend Floyd Mayweather is keen of saying “skills pay the bills”, so it is no surprise that Kobe the most paid athlete in the league even at 35.
If Kobe comes back and play like last year or to a level very close to it, the Lakers will to resign him. If “Kobe is being Bryant” he can convince guys like LeBron James or Carmelo Antony to come play with him in Los Angeles and try to win a championship. If Kobe is the Black Mamba he can win another championship and satisfy temporally his restless will to win. If Kobe is vino he can allow himself to go out, if he chooses to, and retire as the greatest Laker ever with 18 or 19 years and six or seven championships all won under the Laker jersey. If Kobe is Bryant he will give his millions of fans around the world another chance to admire, cheer, support, dream, and celebrate him as the all-time great player that he is only if the Lakers receive the signal sent by his latest injury setback on his Achilles tendon as the ultimate sign that prudence and patience are to be our watchword.