Sunset for Kobe: The Final Nails in the Coffin
According to Kobe Bryant, he's "broken but not beaten."
He's predicted to miss another six weeks after coming back to play six games for the Los Angelos Lakers.
Despite a heroic return to the hardwood, this latest injury can only raise questions about Kobe's durability from this day forward. Yes, a 35-year-old can still contribute significantly in the NBA, but keep in mind, Kobe isn't your average 35-year-old. He was drafted fresh out of high school as a teenager and has played in over 1,200 regular season games, in 200-plus post-season games, and on the 2008 and 2012 USA Men's Olympic basketball teams. Needless to say, there's a surfeit of mileage on his body, and as of right now, the physical stress he endures on a daily basis is taking its toll.
Even when Kobe made his miraculous return to the Lakers, he was ineffective, slow, and not his normal self by his standards. He even openly admitted that he played poorly, especially in his first game back.
The hard fact is, Father Time will always win. Although 35 is not old by any means in a normal society, within the NBA confines, it means you are on the downward slope of your career and your skill set is declining. Take Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, for example. Although they find ways to contribute and can, on occasion, put up big numbers, the consistency isn't there anymore. Their aging bodies prevent them from recuperating at rates that they've grown accustomed to over their lengthy careers.
In my opinion, Kobe's latest injury is one of many to come if his rehabilitation goes smoothly. From this day forward, I feel he will always be nagged by a part of his body that he will just be forced to play through.
Yes, we all realize Kobe is on a mission. He wants to prove to the NBA and his peers that he can still be the explosive 20-year-old that we grew so fond of. Well, he isn't as explosive as he once was, but he still possesses the drive to compete at a high level. His mental fortitude won't disappear by any means. The only trouble Kobe will encounter is the cooperation he requires from his body to still compete at that high level, and that won't happen.
I witnessed Michael Jordan fade at the end of his career. Hopefully, Kobe's swan song doesn't end the way Jordan's did. It's gut-wrenching to watch a former All-Star and future Hall of Famer get outworked, outmuscled, and outclassed by younger, more spry athletes.
Kobe is too stubborn to walk away, as most stars are. The toughest part for an athlete is to call it a day when they feel they have a little gas left in their tank. Steve Nash is experiencing the same dilemmia.
Frankly, the Los Angeles Lakers need an All-Star, and without Kobe, they're an average team with zero attractions.