Looking back on the top five injuries that Kobe Bryant refused to take time off for, even though he should have.
This infographic sums everything up about Kobe Bryant’s career; if the man could walk, he would find a way to play on the court. Even in the twilight of his career, Kobe would continue to play, going as far as playing with his left hand in his 19th season after tearing the Labrum in his right shoulder.
Knocking down two free throws then walking off the court after tearing your Achilles is the stuff of legend, but just a typical day at the office for Kobe. Time and time again Bryant would get knocked down or beat up, and keep on playing. This is why the love for Kobe will never be touched by anyone else, because Kobe gave his entire body to the Los Angeles Lakers for twenty years, and never thought twice about it.
These injuries are things that will be with Kobe forever, and his body breaks down more and more as the years go on, impacting him for the rest of his life. That was the kind of player he was, willing to do anything to win, even if it meant sacrificing his health. Here are the top five injuries Kobe should have sat out for but continued to play on.
5. 2008 NBA Post Season: Back Spasms
Kobe injured his back during the first quarter of the 2008 Western-Conference Semifinals match up with the Utah Jazz, from then on the injury-plagued Bryant for the rest of the postseason. There were times during the Jazz series that it was questionable whether or not Kobe would play, but he put all those doubts to rest when it was time for tip-off.
Bryant did use electrical stimulation during the playoffs to help him play, and anyone who has had a back injury before knows that the back needs days, if not weeks off to recover completely. It would have been impossible for Kobe to heal his back while continuing to play
The Lakers would end up winning the series 4-2, going on to take out the San Antonio Spurs in five, only to eventually lose to Kevin Garnett and the ” Big Three ” Boston Celtics, a game which ended up being Kobe’s personal lowest point of his career.
Kobe would go on to play in the 2008 Summer Olympics that season with the ” Redeem Team,” helping to bring a Gold Medal back to the USA. Kobe’s back ended up healing correctly, and he would go on to get revenge on those pesky Celtics in the 2010 Finals.
4. 2008: A torn ligament on shooting hand
This injury was announced by the Lakers in February 2008, months before the Lakers would take the Lakers to the Finals with an injured back. Initially, the diagnosis was Kobe could miss up to six weeks, but Kobe was having none of that, stating:
“My current thinking is to give my finger some treatment and rest for a few days, and hope I can still continue to compete at a high level after that rest,” Bryant said. “But, this is an injury that myself and the Lakers’ medical staff will just have to continue to monitor on a day-to-day basis.”
This quote sums up Kobe’s attitude towards his injuries, can I still walk? Then do what you can to get me back out on the court. This came about 90 days before Kobe won his one and only regular season MVP award, and at the time was second in the league in scoring behind Lebron James but would overtake this crown by 83 points in the end.
After the injury was announced February 14th, the Lakers would go on to win the next 9 out of 10 games, finishing the season as the number one seed in the West. Kobe ignored the doctors’ recommendation for surgery and even went on the play in the 2008 Olympics with the injury. Kobe never had the surgery at all, and simply adjusted his game to the injury going forward.
3. 2013: Achilles tendon tear
This one is definitely a stretch, as nobody can play through an Achilles injury. This is one of the very few injuries Kobe was not able to overcome, only because he could not physically walk. The damage came during the infamous ” Now this is going to be fun “ 2012-2013 Laker season.
Dwight Howard was recovering from back surgery, Steve Nash rarely play because of various injuries, Mike D”Antoni was struggling to work with the roster, and the Lakers were no even in the playoff picture yet.
In patterned Kobe fashion he said this, as the Lakers saw the playoffs from an outside perspective:
“It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will,” Kobe told Sports Illustrated. “And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver, whoever. I have zero nervousness about that.”
The injury took place on April 12th, 2013, with just two games left in the regular season, and the Lakers hanging on for dear life to their playoff hopes. Kobe drove the ball late in the fourth quarter and immediately went down, holding his ankle. The crowd got silent but not as silent when they realized Kobe was never going to be the same again.
Most players who tear their Achilles get carried off the court, but Kobe limped up to the free throw line and nailed both attempts. The Lakers would end up winning the game 118-116 and making the playoffs by one game. Even though they got swept by the Spurs in the first round, Kobe made due on his promise that they would make the playoffs.
2. 2000: Ankle sprain in NBA Finals
This game took place against the Indiana Pacers, right in the middle of Shaquille O’Neil being a dominant force of nature that could not be contained. Kobe was 21 years old and starting to come into his own on the biggest stage.
Kobe went up for a jump shot on the right-wing, when Jalen Rose pulls a dirty move by undercutting Kobe, not giving him space to land, Zaza Pachulia has been recently guilty of this. The injury forced Kobe out of the game, even going on to miss game three, but taped up the ankle and gave it a go in game four.
The Lakers sitting on a 2-1 series lead, the only loss coming when Kobe was injured, the Lakers needed this victory to keep the Pacers at bay. Shaq fouled out in overtime, obliterating the Pacer front line with 36 points and 21 rebounds before being forced to the bench.
This is where Kobe stepped up and we started to see real glimpses of the ” Black Mamba “on the NBA’s biggest stage. Kobe put Reggie Miller on Skates for a clutch jumper, and iced the game on a tip-in from a Brian Shaw miss, effectively sealing the Pacers fate. Kobe had this to say after the game:
The Lakers would end up winning the next game 116-111 behind 41 points from the ” Shaq Diesel “ to lock up banner number thirteen for the purple and gold, the first step to Kobe become the G.O.A.T. Laker.
2010: Broken index finger
The injury took place in December 2009 when Kobe suffered an avulsion fracture in two places near the tip of the finger, which requires a six-week time to heal for the finger to reach 100 percent again. As you can imagine, Kobe passed on surgery but, he was told the bone fragments could heal while he played, although he could only play if he endured brutal treatments to minimize swelling in the finger.
Kobe would end the season has the fifth best scorer in the NBA, powering the Lakers forward to the NBA Finals where they got redemption against the Celtics in seven games. This was the end result of Kobe delaying surgery:
The middle knuckle on that critical finger on Bryant’s shooting hand is so debilitated by arthritis after the past season of misuse and overuse that there may be no real way to fix it. Bryant will consult with specialists in July to figure out his options, but arthritis is not a problem that can just be cleaned up with arthroscopic surgery or wished away with a little rest.
This would be the last time we saw Kobe in the NBA finals, and he gave us everything that he had to get us there. There are dozens of other injuries Kobe suffered during his tenure in Los Angeles, and every single drop of blood and injury is appreciated from all of us in Lakerland.