When thinking about Kobe Bryant, there are a few numbers that jump into my head: five, 30,000, 35 and one. Kobe has five NBA championships and just this year he reached the 30,000-point milestone, but it’s the last two numbers that really grab my attention.
Kobe just turned 35 on Aug. 23 and at that age he is now trying to recover from his one torn Achilles tendon. That is the type of injury that athletes far younger than Kobe struggle to come back from, and if they do come back from it, they are rarely the same player they were before this injury. Kobe wakes up every day and has to deal with the media and doubters questioning whether or not he can be the old Kobe which leads me to ask this question: Will he or won’t he?
This is not the first obstacle Bryant has faced in his career. In 2003, he was accused of sexual assault and that damaged his reputation big time. However, this time Kobe is not coming back to a team with Shaquille O’Neal or Phil Jackson waiting for him. He is returning to a team in which he will need to put on his back in order to get them to go anywhere this season. That is a whole lot of weight for a repaired Achilles tendon to carry.
It is a well known fact that Kobe’s legs have a lot of miles on them considering he has been in the league since he was 18 and he has played in close to 1,500 games between the regular season and postseason. Kobe has been making amazing progress from his injury. He has been using social media to post videos of his rehab; the one video that sticks out to me is when he is running on a treadmill. With opening night just about two and a half months away, we have to wonder if Kobe will be back in time, and if he is, did he rush back or is he completely healthy and ready for what should be one of his most grueling seasons playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kobe has never been the most popular player in the NBA. His issues with Shaq are well known, and Dwight Howard signed with the Houston Rockets this past offseason because he was not sure when he was going to become the “man” in Lakerland. With that said, I feel even those who doubt Bryant are deep down pulling for him to return to his dominant level of play. I know the Lakers are hoping he comes back better than ever, but even more than that, I feel the NBA itself needs Kobe to return at the level he was playing before his injury.
The NBA is filled with tons of talent, but not all of these star players have the heart and determination of Kobe. This leads me back to the question I asked earlier, will he or won’t he? No one has the answer to this question yet, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet the house on Kobe.