Los Angeles Lakers fans have grown accustomed to Kobe Bryant bouncing back from injury and playing through pain. His performance usually improved when he was wounded. He’s been an All Star level player for 16 consecutive seasons coming into his 18th year. He’ll be fine everyone says.
But its his Achilles.
This week the Lakers announced that Bryant was scaling back his workouts and that he wouldn’t be available for the season opener. What would happen if the Kobe Bryant that returns is a shell of himself? What would that look like?
The loss of quickness is a probability. As is the the loss of lift.
Big scoring nights would be much harder to come by as dunks are replaced by vulnerable floaters and the tough, contested 18 foot pullup becomes the norm again as it was during the 2010-2011 season. He would have to live in the deep post and rely on screens to get open, and a higher percentage of spot ups.
Defensively he could become a big liability on rotations and closeouts. He struggled mightily for most of last season as a team defender. Why would this year be better?
Would he force shots trying to get back to his level, or would he accept who he was at that moment and blend in, pick his spots?
That Kobe Bryant is the closest thing there is to dependable is a testament to his unwavering dedication and work ethic.
You can’t bet against him. But you have to concede its possible the same guy we last saw willing the Lakers’ to the playoffs last season is gone.
For this season anyway.
And that could be a blessing in many ways.
Watching Bryant struggle against his body and still delivering 20 plus points a night on guile, foot work, and experience would be a great opportunity for all fans to witness.
When Jordan came back at age 40, he’d been gone too long. The game became hard for him as so much of his game was built on physical advantages. His shooting percentages plummeted.
For Kobe it should be different. His advantage was always skill and intelligence and determination. For the greats we need to give them challenges to overcome boredom.
His athleticism has been diminished, his game will have to change. Now let’s see what he can do.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
We get to have yet another reason to marvel at his all out war against aging and decline.