The Sunday morning sky in Los Angeles is fittingly overcast and dreary. It is the first morning since hearing the news that Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant indeed has tore his achilles tendon and will be out for the remainder of the season. The mood was already somber immediately following Friday’s nights game against the Golden State Warriors, the game where Kobe collapsed on what seemed to be a routine drive to the basket. After seeing Kobe’s dejected expression on his face after the injury Kobe knew, we all knew, that was it for his season.
The Lakers are in the same position they were just 3 days ago when Kobe was still healthy, holding on to the 8th spot and facing incredible odds to make any type of run in the playoffs. Even with Kobe, nobody that thought reasonably had the Lakers making a run at the championship this season, not after the way they’ve played all year. Except with Kobe, we always felt there was hope even when every sign said there was none.
Kobe’s indelible will is what carried this Lakers team this season. Countless times he bailed out a listless Lakers team from embarrassing defeats.Mar 3, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) dunks against Atlanta Hawks small forward Josh Smith (5) during the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
March 3rd at Staples Center against the Atlanta Hawks, going against one of the most athletic and explosive forwards in Josh Smith, Kobe goes off in the 4th. Kobe scores 11 of his 34 points in the crucial 4th quarter, none more impressive than his thundering one handed dunk on Josh Smith. Kobe scores the final 2 points on a driving layup against the same Josh Smith to put up the Lakers for good. Lakers win 99-98.
In what could have been the most embarrassing loss of the season, the Lakers fell behind the New Orleans Hornets by 25 points in the March 6th match up. Kobe scores 13 of his 42 points during a 20-0 4th quarter run that helps the Lakers beat the Hornets, 108-102. Kobe hit every shot imaginable in this game; pull up transition 3s, fall away jumpers, finishing drives around the basket. The Lakers needed every one of those shots and Kobe even had time to add 12 assists.
Getting behind 15 points against the Toronto Raptors on March 8th at home, Kobe leads yet another comeback, hits the game tying 3 pointer with 5 seconds remaining to get the Lakers to overtime, then in overtime, Kobe gets the game winning dunk to beat the Raptors, 118-116.Kobe ended the night with 41 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists.
This past Tuesday, the Lakers struggling to handle one of the league worse teams at home, Kobe scores 23 of his 30 points in the 4th quarter to put away the New Orleans Hornets, Lakers win, 104-96.
The following night on Wednesday, after falling behind early to the Portland Trailblazers at the Rose Garden, a place where the Lakers rarely win, Kobe puts together one of the best all around games of the season: 47 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, 3 steals, knocks down all of his 18 free throws and commits just 1 turnover while playing all 48 minutes. Lakers win 113-106.Apr 12, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) reacts in front of Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes (40) during the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Finally, Friday night, the Lakers down by 6 to the Golden State Warriors with 5 minutes to play,Kobe hits 2 straight 3 pointers to tie the score. Kobe goes down on an attempted drive and suffers the Achilles injury that ends his season. Hobbled,Kobe goes to the line to knock down two free throws to tie the score again at 109 with 3 minutes to play. Those two free throws put Kobe at 34 points for the night and ended up being his final points of the season. The Lakers without Kobe the rest of the way were able to hold on and beat the Warriors 118-116.
It is these types of super human like performances from Kobe that made the Lakers fan base believe that despite the odds that were stacked against the Lakers in the form of low seeding, an aging roster that lacked athleticism and poor team defense, that winning at any time, even something as far fetched as winning a championship this year, was possible. It is that level of hope that is now lost without him.
The remaining Los Angeles Lakers team now trek forward without their leader and try to secure the final playoff spot, then possibly a run in the playoffs. As I complete this piece I see a little bit of the sun peaking through the clouds, which is also fitting for what remains of the Lakers season. The Lakers, still with a star laden roster remaining, there is still that light that signifies hope; it shines through amongst the clouds of injuries, discontent and disappointment. Those clouds were there all season, except the sun just seemed to shine so much brighter with Kobe around.